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Health superboard starts
Homeless, mentally ill won't suffer due to amalgamation: health minister

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The territory's health and social services minister says city residents who are homeless or dealing with mental health and or addiction issues will not be negatively affected by the newly created NWT Health and Social Services Authority.

Glen Abernethy made the comments at a technical briefing for the media on the changes last Thursday at the Explorer Hotel.

NNSL photo/graphic

Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy makes a point Thursday while speaking to reporters at a technical briefing on the establishment of the NWT Health and Social Services Authority. It amalgamates six regional health authorities into one superboard. - John McFadden/NNSL photo

The new authority came into existence on Aug 1. It amalgamates six regional health authorities including the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority (YHSSA) and the Stanton Health Authority into one "superboard."

"There is still a Yellowknife office with the same staff that there was before," said Abernethy. "The social workers that were there before Aug. 1 are still doing the important work. The nurses that were with YHSSA are still doing their important work."

The Yellowknife authority had been responsible for overseeing several offices in Yellowknife, including child and family services, community mental health and adult services, home and community care, public health, the healthy family program and Yellowknife's two main clinics - the primary care centre downtown and the Frame Lake Community Health Clinic on Old Airport Road. It also oversaw the funding for the Safe Harbour Day Shelter.

It does not have direct involvement with the city's ambulance department so the amalgamation should not affect the city's emergency medical responders.

Abernethy added Yellowknife will now have a seven-member regional wellness council that will provide guidance and ensure a representative voice within the system. The chair of that council will sit on the newly created NWT Health and Social Services Leadership Council. The council will serve as the board of management for the superboard.

Abernethy said improving health care is the ultimate goal of the transformation. He added the old system whereby the regional health authorities worked in what he called "silos" will now be streamlined, meaning a better co-ordination of health care services. He also pointed out the procurement process will now go through one office which will mean simplified spending and less paperwork. Abernethy said the streamlining does not automatically mean that health -are jobs in the territory will be lost.

"We've been very clear - this is not about centralization. This isn't about taking positions out of communities on the frontline," Abernethy said. "Some jobs have been re-described. There may be some affected employees but not necessarily."

The amalgamation of the regional health boards has meant job description updates for more than 1,600 employees who now work for the territorial health authority.

The chair of the NWT Health and Social Services Leadership Council, Jim Antoine, closed out the briefing by suggesting that before people start to worry about whether these changes are going to affect their health care, it's important to remember that the person most responsible for an individual's health care is him or herself.

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