Shortage of nurses causes temporary closure of Nunavut Medical Center

Shortage of nurses causes temporary closure of Nunavut Medical Center


The shortage of health care personnel across the country seems to have a particularly severe impact on Nunavut.

The Nunavut government announced on Friday that it will temporarily close its two northernmost community health centers during part of the summer due to a shortage of medical personnel in the area. In addition to emergencies, health centers in five other communities will also be closed for part of the summer.

Nunavut Health Minister Lorne Kusugak said at a press conference on Friday: “The COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide shortage of health care personnel make it very difficult to recruit nurses in the region.”

“My department has developed a contingency plan to enable the health services of the affected communities to continue, and at the same time actively carry out recruitment efforts throughout the summer.”

The district stated that the contract signed with Bayshore Healthcare Agency on March 23 avoided more closures, but this may change. The contract aims to provide nurses and midwifery services to Nunavut.

The region stated in a press release that although the Ministry of Health has avoided further closures during the summer due to new partnerships and recruitment efforts in the past few weeks, some closures may be required if staffing levels change.

Nunavut Health Minister Lorne Kusugak said that the pandemic and the shortage of medical staff across the country have made it “very difficult” to recruit nurses in the region. (Beth Brown/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

The press release stated that the Ministry of Health is working with the government and regional partners to ensure Nunavut’s access to healthcare services while working to resolve shortages.

The plan is to provide customers with virtual health, flying clinics and nursing staff services in areas where the center is closed.

Expect delays

The press release stated that calls to medical services may be automatically transferred to other communities, “If there is a delay in the connection of the call, the caller is asked not to hang up.”

Support staff will continue to provide services such as prescription drugs, but remind Nunavummiut in affected communities that there may also be delays.

The government stated that virtual public health workers, paramedics and other health workers will help the region respond to COVID-19, including helping with testing and contact tracing and monitoring.

Vaccines are still available by appointment and are administered by nursing staff or licensed nurse practitioners.

Service reduction or closure may change depending on the availability of staff.

The affected medical centers that will be closed include:

  • Grise Fiord Health Center: It is expected to close in mid-August.
  • Resolute Bay Health Centre: It is expected to close in mid-August.

Health centers that are closed except for emergency services include:

  • St. Therese Health Center in Kugaaruk: August 1-15.
  • Judy Hill Memorial Health Center in Taloyoak: July 30 to August 13.
  • Clyde River Health Center: August 9-24.
  • Sanikiluaq Health Center: July 26 to August 31.
  • Naujaat Health Center: August 12-31.

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