No plans for hospital lay-offs as COVID-era funding ends, N.W.T. health minister says

Health and Social Services Minister Lesa Semmler says there are no planned lay offs at Stanton Hospital as a result of COVID-era funding coming to an end next month. She says that’s because the department wasn’t able to staff the additional positions in the first place. (Julie Plourde/Radio-Canada)

The Northwest Territories health minister says her department is not planning to lay off any staff as a result of COVID-related funding expiring at the end of the fiscal year.

Minister Lesa Semmler says that’s because the plan is to cut positions her department wasn’t able to fill in the first place.

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) recently said that there will be fewer beds in Stanton Territorial Hospital and “associated staffing reductions,” after a COVID-related boost in funding comes to an end on March 31.

But in an exchange in the legislature Tuesday, Semmler said she doesn’t expect anybody will be laid off.

“It’s important to understand that many positions that were added in this, with this funding, we were never able to staff them,” she said.

Semmler said the department filled the vacancies with casual and contract workers.

The minister’s comments came under questioning from Frame Lake MLA Julian Morse.

Morse said nursing aides — among the positions expected to be cut — were unsung heroes of the pandemic.

“Eliminating these positions could not only deteriorate care standards, but also demoralize our health care workers, who, in the face of growing pressures, continue to selflessly serve northerners when we are actively working to recruit and notably, retain nurses,” Morse said.

Semmler pointed to two agreements the territory recently signed with Ottawa. The federal government is providing $36 million to enhance culturally-appropriate mental wellness and suicide prevention programs, establish an addictions medicine team, and improve care for seniors.

Semmler said those agreements will create jobs in health care.

“When we talk about what’s going away from COVID, we’ve been able to integrate a lot of those positions into these new fundings,” she said.

“We will not jeopardize patient care. That is not something that I will do as a minister.”

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Mental health in Arctic Canada – Can community programs make the difference?, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Climate change worries Finland’s young reindeer herders, Yle News

United States: Lack of village police leads to hiring cops with criminal records in Alaska: Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Public Media

Natalie Pressman, CBC News

Natalie Pressman is a reporter with CBC North in Yellowknife. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @natpressman.

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *