Nursing shortages in Arviat could leave some thinking they’re in Third-World conditions, Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main said in the legislative assembly on Tuesday.

Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main says Arviat needs more nurses.
photo courtesy of the GN

The community’s health centre is put on reduced or emergency-only services during stretches of the summer because there are too few nurses.

“We need more health care staff for two reasons: number one is the obvious reason, to protect the well-being of Nunavummiut and to assist them when they’re sick; and number two is to protect the existing health care workers and make sure they don’t get burnt out and make sure that they can build a life here in Nunavut and that they can stay here in Nunavut provide those essential services to our residents,” Main said.

Health Minister George Hickes acknowledged that understaffed facilities make it difficult to provide proper health care. However, the challenge of recruiting more nurses is a nationwide problem, he said. The GN often relies on casual or agency nurses because there aren’t near enough who are willing to stay long term.

Arviat has 11 nursing positions and it’s essentially fully staffed now due to tuberculosis testing nurses being on site, Hickes said. But shortages can likely be expected again next summer, he predicted.

Main asked whether a doctor could be stationed in Arviat since the population would justify it. The health minister wouldn’t make a commitment.

“I wish I could just say yes or no; it’s a little complicated. As I alluded to earlier, I’m looking at with my departmental officials on different staffing options with health centres across the territory. I can’t go into details on it right now,” said Hickes. “I do want to at this point just basically again ask for some more patience. We do have some plans and options that we’re looking at internally to see how the staffing levels of all health centres could be looked at to provide better care overall.”

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Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...