Strike won't affect North
Contingency plan in place, health officials say

Glen Vienneau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( May 26/00) - Patients, nurses and physicians in Yellowknife have nothing to worry about in relation to Alberta's health support staff strike, officials say.

"I really don't think it's going to have a big impact on us," said Dr. David King, president of the NWT Medical Association.

The strike is not expected to affect NWT patient care or health care providers' workload here, agrees Warren St. Germaine, director of financial and management services for the Department of Health.

The strike of about 10,000 licensed practical nurses, nursing attendants and other support staff hit Alberta's 159 health-care facilities on Wednesday morning.

"There was an initial fear that with the one union striking, other unions would be on the picket line -- that would have become very disruptive," St. Germaine said.

"You may have some individuals in the NWT who are scheduled for elective surgery in Edmonton that will basically be postponed," he said.

St. Germaine says for those needing "acute" emergency services provided outside of Yellowknife, a plan to deal with it is already in place.

"We went through this last year with the potential nurses' strike, the protocols are all established," he said.

"There is a process where the patients will be sent to the next available centre,"

So, if patients cannot get the services in Edmonton the next step would be to send them to Calgary, otherwise, they would go to British Columbia or Saskatchewan. These arrangements were made last year in a plan made with the GNWT's Department of Health and Social Services and Edmonton's Capital Health Authority.

Aside from receiving daily updates from Alberta on the conditions, a referral 1-800 number for physicians has been in place. This would allow physicians here to find out which facility will be able to provide treatment to NWT patients.

"The system is all set up, ready to go if we have to," said St. Germaine.

"There is the potential you're down in Edmonton, if you can be taken care of at Stanton, they may EVAC you back," he said. He added that Stanton is prepared for this situation.

As for Alberta's patients, they will most likely be sent to other provinces.

"It's highly unlikely they will send patients here." St. Germaine adds the reason for that is the extent of emergency services available for them here in the first place, he explained.

"We send people out of the territories because we can't provide the services they require here," he said. "We wouldn't bring in services we wouldn't normally provide."