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Staff shortages force summer cuts to lab services in Yellowknife, physician services in Hay River

In Yellowknife, the laboratory at the Yellowknife Primary Care Centre will be closed from June 27 to Sept. 5. Residents in Hay River can expect to have intermittent physician services between July and September, starting July 5.

1 of Yellowknife's 2 labs will be closed, and Hay River won't always have a physician present

A man walks past the Yellowknife Primary Care Clinic on Oct. 7, 2021. The clinic's lab and diagnostic imaging services will be shut down this summer. (Walter Strong/CBC)

The shortage of health care staff in the N.W.T. means residents can expect reductions in lab and diagnostic imaging services in Yellowknife this summer, and in physician services in Hay River.

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority issued a public notice Wednesday about the changes.

In Yellowknife, the laboratory at the Yellowknife Primary Care Centre will be closed from June 27 to Sept. 5, meaning there will be no laboratory or diagnostic imaging services at that location.

The health authority wrote that staffing there "has been an ongoing issue."

"Constant intermittent closures have added frustration for staff, providers and patients. During this extended closure, the focus will be on assessing our service model and staff recruitment," the notice states.

Residents in Hay River can expect to have intermittent physician services between July and September, starting July 5.

In lieu of a physician, the notice said patients will be seen either virtually or by nursing staff. If they need more care, they may be moved to another location.

The health authority added that staff levels across the N.W.T.'s health system are strained, and that it's looking at whether service levels in other regions will need to be changed.

In March, the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority warned it was preparing for six months of staffing shortages and possible service reductions.

Last year, staff shortages led to the closure of the obstetrics unit at the Stanton Territorial Hospital.

Earlier this month, the government released a plan to address staff shortages in health care.

Staffing shortages are also affecting health centres in other territories, with Nunavut announcing closures or reduced services at health centres for the second summer in a row. During temporary closures there, paramedics will provide emergency care.

In the Yukon, Carmacks and Ross River health centres were only offering emergency services earlier this month. At that time, the Yukon government said other communities could see health care reductions as well in the coming months.

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