PUBLIC NOTICE: Inuvik Regional Hospital Temporary Reduction to Emergency Birthing Services Only

Public Notice

(Inuvik, January 11, 2024) – The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services (NTHSSA) is announcing the temporary suspension of regular (planned) labour and delivery services at the Inuvik Regional Hospital (IRH) from January 11, 2024, through midnight January 14. 2024.  During this period only emergency assessment and birthing services will be available. This service reduction is related to temporary, sudden, and unexpected significant reduction of available qualified obstetric registered nursing staff. 

Individuals who were planning to give birth in Inuvik and who are 36 weeks or more in their pregnancy have been contacted and arrangements have been made to transfer their care to Yellowknife. At this time less than five individuals have been impacted. Those who are under 36 weeks gestation are not expected to be impacted at this time. NTHSSA Beaufort Delta region is continuing to recruit for qualified staff and will be monitoring staffing levels over the coming weeks.  Should shortages persist or recur, extension of service reduction or reintroduction may be required, and will be announced at the appropriate time.

This service reduction is necessary as staffing levels of qualified obstetric nurses during this time period mean that Inuvik Regional Hospital is not able to ensure adequate personnel with the required specialized skills to assure an acceptable standard of care is maintained. 

Inuvik Regional Hospital will continue to ensure emergency labour and delivery care is available during the service reduction. Pre-and-post natal assessments and care will continue. Anyone who is pregnant and requires assessment or who goes into labour should present to the IRH emergency department for care. 

In efforts to avoid or reduce the duration of the service reduction in Inuvik, the NTHSSA has completed external and targeted internal callouts for staff with the required skills to redeploy to Inuvik and has contacted casual staff to determine interest.  Nursing staffing agencies have also been contacted to determine if qualified staff can be recruited through this avenue to assist with staffing the IRH obstetric service in the short term until staffing has re-stabilized.  To date, these efforts have yielded limited staff to assist but not enough to avoid this service reduction. 

Background – Specialized Obstetric nurses have been challenging to recruit to the NWT dating back to 2019.  In 2022, Stanton’s obstetric service was reduced for approximately 4 months due to staffing shortages, and has been heavily reliant on agency nursing staff since that time as it remains difficult to recruit this specialty of nursing to the NWT.  NTHSSA has engaged in significant and focused effort to recruit, retain, and to train specialized obstetric nurses to ensure the sustainability of birthing services throughout the NWT.  There is a national nursing shortage and high demand across all jurisdictions for nurses; this is more acute in areas where specialized skills and training are required, such as obstetrics.