Northwest Territories health card holders needn’t worry about their benefits disappearing during a global health emergency.
The territory is extending expiring and expired health cards, according to the Department of Health and Social Services.
“The extension will be in place until the situation improves, based on the advice provided by the chief public health officer,” a spokesperson said March 25.
A number of services provided by the NWT Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSS) have been suspended or reduced in the wake of COVID-19.
The changes were made before the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the NWT last weekend, according to the health department.
“These were put in place to ensure we have system-wide readiness to address COVID-19 as the situation changes in the NWT.”
Some services have been temporarily cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, including “all elders day programs delivered by the health and social services authorities,” states the GNWT’s website.
In Yellowknife, this will “partially impact” Mary Murphy Home luncheons provided by YK Home Care, the department tells NNSL Media.
The service, which brought together Elders for a weekly group meal, will be replaced with a meal delivery program to adhere to social distancing protocols. Meals are being delivered to homes by home support workers.
The health authority says all service changes are being reassessed regularly.
“We still do not know what the full impact of COVID-19 will be and we will continue to adjust services as appropriate while this situation develops.”
Here’s an overview from the NTHSS website on how services are currently being affected by COVID-19, as of March 26:
For all NWT residents
• Sick notes will no longer be issued. Employers need to support public health efforts by allowing staff who are sick to stay home or staff returning from travel to isolate based on advice from the chief public health officer of the Northwest Territories
• Non-essential medical travel to Alberta and within the NWT will be ramped down. Travel for essential care and services will continue on a case-by-case basis. As many appointments as possible will be replaced with virtual appointments.
• Travel of specialist physicians to specialist clinics delivered in communities across the NWT will be cancelled and replaced with virtual appointments, where possible
• Non-urgent and non-emergent endoscopy procedures will be cancelled
• All Elders day programs delivered by the health and social services authorities will be cancelled
• Oral health programs, normally delivered through schools, will be cancelled
• Visitation to long-term care will be immediately cancelled
• Visitation to acute care sites will be limited to one person per visit
For people in Yellowknife
• Walk-in appointments will be converted to same-day appointments, but the number of appointments available is not being reduced. Individuals are asked to call to secure appointments. If you show up at the clinic you will be given a time for your appointment and asked to leave the premises until your appointment to maintain social distancing and reduce opportunities for potential spread.
• Yellowknife residents with flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) must call public health at 867-767-9120 for appointments. A quick screening questionnaire will help determine if you should present to Primary Care, Stanton ER, or the off-site COVID-19 screening clinic.
• Residents are asked to call public health to arrange appointments, and there will be no walk-in COVID related appointments. To avoid the risk of spread, strict infection prevention and control processes are in place. To limit contact with potential cases, individuals who need COVID-19 screening will be directed to a specific site.
• The Yellowknife Eye Clinic will be eliminating walk-in appointments and deferring non-urgent care and services. If you have an urgent issue you can still secure an appointment by phoning the eye clinic at 867-873-3577.
• At this time we are also asking the public to report if they are having issues with phone lines in reaching Yellowknife area clinics, particularly if you are put on hold and experience dropped calls. If you do get put on hold and experience a dropped call please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The Yellowknife Primary Care Clinic Diagnostic Services are temporarily closed until further notice. The Stanton Territorial Hospital laboratory/diagnostic imaging department is still open. People requiring these services are asked to visit the Stanton Territorial Hospital laboratory/diagnostic imaging department. Outpatient lab and diagnostic imaging hours at Stanton Territorial Hospital are:
– Diagnostic Imaging: 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday
– Laboratory: 8 a.m. -8 p.m. Monday to Friday
• Well-child appointments will continue but only for vaccinations. The well-child assessments where weight, developmental milestones, etc., are monitored will be deferred to a later time. For parents with children due for vaccinations, appointments will continue but will be shortened and the assessments completed at a later date, deferred assessments will be put on a waitlist for follow up.
• Routine vaccination appointments are being reviewed and triaged based on priority. Those with rescheduled appointments will be contacted directly.
• Breastfeeding clinic will be rescheduled with any concerns from those who would normally attend to be redirected to Public Health for triage to a registered nurse to discuss issues via telephone to determine need for appointment. Those who need appointments will continue to be accommodated.
• All in-school programming will be suspended until further notice, any education related requests that have been booked will be rescheduled to a later date and teachers can reach out to their dedicated public health nurse for lesson plans and resource.
• HPV programming for Grade 5 students will not be occurring the week of April 26 and will be rescheduled to June 2020.
• Regular appearances at community group sessions will be suspended until further notice. If you have a community group that has a public health nurse attend for education or information purposes, please make contact with public health. Information and lesson plans that would be routinely used for these groups can be provided. Communication about when participation in these groups will be issued at a later date.
Visit https://www.nthssa.ca/en/services/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-updates for updates.