N.W.T. evacuees told to expect limited health services when they get home

Smoke plumes over Stanton Territorial Hospital on Aug. 15. Some health services in the territory won't be immediately available when city residents return after the evacuation ends. (Pat Kane/Reuters - image credit)

Smoke plumes over Stanton Territorial Hospital on Aug. 15. Some health services in the territory won’t be immediately available when city residents return after the evacuation ends. (Pat Kane/Reuters – image credit)

N.W.T. health officials say it’ll take time — possibly up to a month — for all health services to resume in the territory, once residents return home.

And officials also say that evacuees who might therefore decide to stay where they are, even with evacuation orders lifted, will no longer get the same support.

“We understand there may be individuals who are concerned about the availability of health and social services in Yellowknife,” reads a Friday news release from the N.W.T. Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA).

“Should you choose not to return to your home community after an evacuation order is lifted because of this concern, please be aware that supports for evacuees may cease when re-entry flights have been completed.”

Evacuation orders are still in place for some N.W.T. communities. The order for Yellowknife, Ndilǫ, Dettah will be lifted at noon on Wednesday, meaning that’s when residents can return.

Right now, most health services in Yellowknife other than emergency department care are still suspended.

Dr. Claudia Kraft, the territorial medical director, told CBC News on Friday that initially, after the re-entry, there will be  “basic services but they’re going to be quite limited in the first few days.”

“We just think it’s really important for people to have as much information about what is and isn’t going to be available to them as they’re making their own decisions about when the right time to return to Yellowknife is going to be, for them,” she said.

Most “core services” should be in place within a couple of weeks, Kraft said.

The Friday news release from NTHSSA says some services may initially be available “pending confirmation of appropriate levels of qualified staff.”

At Stanton Territorial Hospital, this includes:

  • Emergency department services.

  • Emergency surgical services and emergency obstetrics.

  • In-patient acute care (at reduced capacity).

  • Support services such as lab, diagnostic imaging and medical device reprocessing.

For community services, this includes:

In addition, Public Health will be closed but beginning to schedule urgent and missed appointments. Home care services will also be reduced.

Child and Family Services will provide support for clients’ reentry as well as emergency child protection service.

Shelter services will be available “but may be limited until staffing stabilizes,” the release states.

Other services will not be immediately available even when the public returns:

  • Intensive care services. Critically ill patients will likely be medevaced out of territory.

  • Routine obstetrical services.

  • Chemotherapy, dialysis and IV therapy. Anyone receiving these services elsewhere is advised to continue receiving care where they are and not return “for the time being.”

  • Surgical services, other than limited emergency services.

  • Pediatrics admission. Children requiring admission to hospital may be flown to southern facilities.

Some medical patients who are being advised to not return immediately — chemotherapy, dialysis, IV therapy patients and those with advanced or high-risk pregnancies — will be contacted directly by health staff. People who have to stay away from home for care even after evacuation supports end will then receive medical travel supports.

“Not only are we advising those specific groups not to rush back, we’re actually actively saying, please don’t return in the early days until we tell you that we have those really important services available to you,” said Kraft.

Long term and extended care patients will return “toward the end of the service resumption period,” the news release states.

“It is expected full service resumption and stabilization could take up to one month,” it states.

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