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Public health measures are doing more harm than good, according to a couple of groups in the Northwest Territories, and they’re going to get a chance to confront the chief public health officer with their views.

Last week, the NWT Medical Association and business leaders in the territory put forward criticism of Dr. Kami Kandola’s safety regulations. The business alliance is calling on decision makers to “strike a better balance between public health requirements and plans to safely reopen.” 

“There are always different opinions on the same subject and sometimes it’s more important to have the dialogue and talk, and hear each other out,” says chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola.

This week, Kandola and her team are meeting with both groups to discuss concerns and have a more “fulsome” conversation, Kandola explained. 

“There are always different opinions on the same subject and sometimes it’s more important to have the dialogue and talk, and hear each other out,” she said. 

The business leaders have called NWT’s health measures a prolonged “induced coma” with “businesses and their workers suffering the effects.” 

Meanwhile, the NWT Medical Association outlined several adverse effects mounting from Covid response restrictions, including: decreased access to social and emotional supports, increased domestic violence, delaying diagnosis of other ailments and negative impacts on physical and mental health. 

Kandola will meet with the business advisory committee on Thursday evening and with the NWT Medical Association on Friday afternoon. When asked if she could be swayed to ease restrictions, Kandola said she has been “easing and easing for the past 10 weeks.”

Every measure I’ve taken has been more relaxed,” she said. “We’ve always had essential services open, but now we have hair salons, massages, opticians. Regular offices are open. Restaurants are open. We’ve opened up indoor sports, outdoor sports, all these different businesses in phase two.”

Kandola explained that, “In a measured approach, [we are] opening safely.”

While the NWT mines have their own machines that test for Covid, most samples from NWT residents are sent to Alberta, where it can take two to five days to get a response.

 Although the NWT has a GeneXpert device that can process Covid test results in less than an hour without having to be sent to an outside lab, there are limitations. 

“The only struggle is that we don’t have the cartridges to be able to provide that [for everyone]. So we’re really reserving that for high-risk scenarios,” said Kandola.

One such scenario, she explains, would be an outbreak within the homeless population, where it wouldn’t be possible to trace all points of contact. One scenario that would be cause for concern would be community spread where the source cannot be tracked and the health system becomes strained and overwhelmed, she cautioned. 

Obtaining more GeneXpert cartridges to increase rapid testing capacity is proving difficult.

“There’s a worldwide demand for cartridges. Hopefully they’ll increase their ability to meet the demand but it’s one of those narratives where there’s more demand than there is supply,” Kandola said. “Because of where we are, we are testing people who have symptoms. We have a travel restriction in place – this is a good spot to be in and we want to maintain it.”

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Natalie Pressman

Natalie is a graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program. She has since held contracts working with an NGO in Vietnam, freelancing, and working with Journalists for Human Rights in Iskatewizaagegan...

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