The N.W.T. Health Department spent about $2 million in 2006-2007 to recruit temporary nurses from agencies outside the territory. In the latest fiscal year, the department has spent $15,000. ((CBC))

Northwest Territories health officials say they are no longer paying millions of dollars to hire temporary nurses from outside the territory.

The N.W.T. Health Department has spent about $15,000 on agencies that supply temporary nurses to date in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

The latest figure is in stark contrast to the approximately $2 million the department spent in the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

Health officials used to depend on agencies to find backfill for staff nurses who were ill or on vacation, said Shaleen Woodward, the department's director of system reform and innovation.

But Woodward said the territory's Human Resources Department now maintains a pool of casual employees who are either based in the North or are southerners who have worked in the territory before.

"It provides us with some greater consistency and we think [it] helps with the quality of care," Woodward told CBC News.

"Because we are bringing in people that are working within our system on a regular basis … they get to know our system better."

Woodward said the Health Department now calls temporary staff agencies in extreme cases, such as when they are desperate to keep a community health centre open.