No house call policy, limited paramedic services costing lives, N.W.T. MLA says

At least two residents of Deninu Kųę́ First Nation in the N.W.T. died after losing precious time because they could not be transported to health centres in time, and nurses are prohibited from making house calls, MLA Steve Norn says.

2019 policy prohibits nurses from providing emergency services outside health centres

MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh Steve Norn says a policy prohibiting community nurses from making house calls prevented two sick residents from getting life-saving care. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

A policy that prohibits nurses from making house calls is endangering lives, especially when they cannot be transported to a health centre in timely manner, according to an N.W.T. MLA.

"In June 2020, we lost an elder in Deninu Kųę́ [First Nation] who was in medical distress and the local nursing staff were bound by policy or procedure and were not able to respond," Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn said in the Legislative Assembly Friday.

The elder was only a few hundred metres from the health centre, said Norn.

Community members phoning for a medical emergency must be transported by a friend or RCMP to get the medical attention they need, he said.

This resulted in a second death in the community, said Norn.

"We lost another resident who could have very well been still with us if there was a swift response to attend to their emergency. There was valuable time lost because of response in transportation of a patient to the health centre." 

Community health nurses not first responders: minister

Health Minister Julie Green replied that "first responders have a different skill set," and the problem lies with getting patients to the health centre.

A policy from November 2019 prohibits community health nurses from leaving the health care centre in order to provide emergency services.

Green said there is a gap in ambulance services needed to transport people. That responsibility falls under the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, which she said is working on the issue.