In spite of large distances and a small population we actually have a very high quality of health care in the NWT. There are no premiums for medical care and eye exams. Many northern employers offer additional health coverage. For example, dental care and other health related services may be covered under plans supported in part by employers.
The NWT Health Care Plan
After three months’ residency, residents are eligible for membership in the NWT Health Care Plan. There are absolutely no health care premiums—unlike Ontario and British Columbia, where a person might have to pay up to $900 a year for similar coverage. Extended health benefits are also available, upon application, at no cost, for specified disease conditions that are not covered by hospital and medical care insurance.
When it comes to good health care, most NWT residents have access to high-quality hospital and physician services. Regional health centres provide residents with access to primary care as well as specialist services.
Highly trained and qualified community health nurses make up most of the health practitioners outside Yellowknife. They are backed up by support staff, community and home care workers, and physicians. Telehealth, a sophisticated audio-visual teleconferencing tool, is used to supplement health and social services through consultation between specialists located in Edmonton or Yellowknife and patients in remote communities.
Health Centres in 28 communities provide primary health care services and make referrals as needed. There are acute care/hospital facilities in Inuvik, Fort Simpson, Hay River, Fort Smith and Yellowknife. Inuvik has up to nine doctors, a 50 bed accredited hospital facility and community health nursing staff based in each regional community. Fort Simpson has a two-bed acute care facility and doctors who service the surrounding communities. Hay River has a small regional hospital with several GPs serving the surrounding communities. Fort Smith has a modern health care centre with acute care beds, a midwifery program and physicians. The five Sahtu communities, and four Tlicho communities have Health Centres staffed by Community Health Nurses.
Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife is an accredited 100-bed acute care facility serving the NWT and the Central Arctic.
The NWT provides a full range of insured in-hospital services as well as outpatient services including lab tests, X-rays, minor medical and surgical procedures, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy (in an approved hospital), psychiatric and counseling services. When a resident cannot obtain necessary medical services in their home community, a medical travel program enables them to access services in larger NWT communities or outside the territory, in Edmonton, if necessary. In emergencies, patients are air medevaced to larger centres where they can get the services they need.
At the NWT’s largest hospital, the Stanton Territorial in Yellowknife, specialists provide the following services: General surgery, Obstetrics and gynecology, Orthopedic surgery, ENT, Ophthalmology, Pediatrics, Internal medicine, Psychiatry, Anesthesia, Radiology. Other specialty services are accessed on referral to specialists in Edmonton.
There are nine pharmacies in the NWT – five in Yellowknife, two in Inuvik and one each in Hay River and Fort Smith. Residents in smaller communities get their prescriptions filled by mail or via their local Health Centres.
For more information on the NWT’s health care services visit NWT Health and Social Services.