Today, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) announced new incentives and operational interventions designed to help recruit and retain health professionals.
A global shortage of doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses, which has been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to cuts and closures of health services in the Northwest Territories and across Canada. Since the start of 2022, the NWT Health and Social Services System has temporarily redeployed staff to critical service areas, and it has also increased employer-requested overtime. It was also necessary to use more substitutes, casuals and agencies to fill the gaps in staffing.
Initiatives announced to help recruit and retain healthcare professionals include:
Health authorities will expand skill mixes to include paramedics. This means paramedics can now be hired to provide acute care support to remote and isolated communities and assist health centers and Stanton Territorial Hospital with emergency visits, patient assessments and management. .
- Friends and family travel program
To help provide coverage during hard-to-staff times, this program will offer all front-line casual, term, and indeterminate nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and physicians the opportunity to bring up to two loved ones at their place of work in the North during the holiday season. The program will cover travel costs to the Northwest Territories, up to a maximum of $2,000 per employee who must work for at least five days between December 20, 2022 and January 4, 2023.
Building relationships with new staff is critical to long-term retention. In response to some of the challenges new nurses face when moving to the North, the GNWT is creating four new Onboarding Specialist positions to provide in-depth orientation to all new staff.
GNWT employees may be eligible to receive $1,000 if they refer a Registered Nurse or Nurse Practitioner, who is then hired by the GNWT to fill a hard-to-recruit, front-line, indeterminate or term position. This program also applies to referrals from physicians contracted to fill a position.
An additional $1,000 will be paid if the new employee remains in their position for one year.
To reduce barriers that may prevent some locum physicians from accepting contracts in the NWT, the GNWT will expedite the licensing process for locum physicians so they can work sooner after being hired. The health care system will also reimburse licensing fees paid by locums, at the end of a contract with the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority.
- International travel to/from the Northwest Territories
The GNWT will pay international travel costs for physicians, nurse practitioners and registered nurses who currently live overseas and wish to work in the NWT health system. To qualify, they must be eligible and authorized to work in the Northwest Territories.
“Recruitment and retention of healthcare workers is complex and requires a dedicated and multi-faceted approach. These measures aim to attract new employees in key areas and add options for more flexible staffing in the short term, as part of our phased approach to stabilizing services. Increasing staff availability will reduce the current pressure on the health care system. We will continue to engage directly with staff on a regular basis to identify and understand their concerns and find practical solutions to ensure NWT residents receive the quality health care they deserve.
- Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services
“Healthcare personnel play an important role in the NWT workforce, and the territorial government remains committed to finding short- and long-term solutions to support our dedicated healthcare professionals, including boosting morale and reducing staff shortages. The measures announced today bolster existing efforts to recruit, which in turn helps retention, as staff can take time off and enjoy greater schedule flexibility. We continue to work with all our partners to develop and support solutions that will strengthen the health care system in the territory.
- Caroline Wawzonek, Ministry of Finance
- The HSS system human resources plan outlines medium- and long-term planning for recruitment and retention, such as increasing the capacity of Indigenous and northern populations to receive the training needed to become health professionals . The measures announced today provide short-term solutions.
- All 2021 graduates of the Aurora College nursing program have been employed in the Northwest Territories, and job offers have been made to all 2022 graduates of the Aurora College nursing program.
- Premier Caroline Cochrane said there is an urgent need to increase the federal government’s National Health Transfer to be able to attract professionals to an area of Canada that, due to its geographic and socio-demographic nature, has had inherent challenges. long standing to ensure a stable health workforce.
- Due to the increase in the cost of services and the increase in the number of patients, according to projections by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), total health expenditure (public and private) per resident of the NWT in 2021 was $20,365, more than 2.5 times the average cost per Canadian.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Ministry of Health and Social Services
Government of the Northwest Territories