COVID-19 cases in N.W.T. putting pressure on medical system

As COVID-19 cases rise in the Northwest Territories, there’s pressure on the territory’s already limited health care system.

Admissions into the intensive care unit are on the rise in Yellowknife.

Since Sept. 17, there four patients have required treatment in the intensive care unit.

There are currently 238 actives cases in the territory as of Sept. 23.

“It continues to challenge our healthcare system not only with the beds but with the expertise to deal with that so our staffing resources are stretched quite thin,” says Scott Roberton, co-head of the Health and Social Services Authority in the N.W.T.

At a news conference Wednesday, officials announced stricter limits on gatherings in the hopes of reducing the number of new cases.

According to territorial guidelines, a household of two people can have a total of seven people visit. A household of six can only have four visitors. 10 people or less are allowed

For outdoor events, 25 people or fewer are permitted to gather.

“People travel to hub communities for a variety of reasons and needs,” says Dr. Kami Kandola, chief medical officer in the N.W.T. “Our office is aware of the introduction of COVID -19 in at least five small communities after travel to Yellowknife.”

Kandola says close to 60 per cent of actives cases are in Yellowknife and surrounding area.

“Twenty three N.W.T. residents have been hospitalized which includes nine ICU admissions since mid August,” says Kandola. “Two N.W.T. residents have died in the past month. N.W.T. depends on the care for the sickest N.W.T. residents and its intensive care capacity is being stretched.”

As doctors and nurses handle the surge of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, they’re coming up against another challenge; issues with the distribution system of oxygen within the hospital and limits on the total volume of oxygen that can be given in each area of the hospital at one time.

According to a release from the territorial government, high flow oxygen devices are used to assist COVID-19 patients to breath.

Hospital staff are moving towards treatments that use less oxygen than that of a ventilator.

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in other parts of the territory. The communities of Behchoko and Whati are currently under containment orders to try and stop the spread.

To the south, the province of Alberta is struggling with a surging case count. As of Sept. 23 there were 20,304 active cases – more than triple that of any other province.

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