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New vision for NWT health and social services system to improve services to residents

YELLOWKNIFE (November 22, 2013) – The Joint Leadership Council (JLC) of the Northwest Territories health and social services system has agreed on actions to improve services for NWT residents says Minister of Health and Social Services Glen Abernethy.

Members of the JLC met in Yellowknife last week and approved a vision statement and actions designed to improve efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery.  “We all want a system that focuses on the patient,” said Minister Abernethy.  “Working together, we can drive improvements to our system that will benefit all northerners.”

The vision statement establishes a goal of operating as a seamless, integrated health and social services system. Priorities for action identified at last week’s meeting include moving forward on implementing collaborative shared services for the system to ensure that all territorial authorities can tap into shared expertise in areas such as finance, procurement, quality assurance and human resource planning.  “This is not about centralization,” said Joe Handley, Public Administrator for the Stanton Territorial Health Authority. “It’s about improving service to residents by sharing resources and expertise.”

JLC members will also consider options for updating the structure of the NWT’s health and social services system to establish a territorial authority that gives every region a voice in how the system operates.  Liz Wyman, Chair of the Yellowknife Health and Social Service Authority, noted that “lack of action on integration is frustrating,” and it is time to move forward.

“We need to bring our system into the 21st century and make sure we have a structure that improves access to care and consistency of care,” said  Minister Abernethy,  noting that this will allow the NWT  to take full advantage of modern health technology, such as electronic medical records.

JLC members support the government’s Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan and want to see more aggressive action in this area, including expanding access to the Dalhousie/Stanton psychiatric telehealth service to all regions of the NWT.  “Addictions do not recognize authority boundaries,” said Danny Bayha, Chair of the Sahtu Health and Social Services Authority.

Another priority identified at the meeting was an increased focus on Aboriginal health.  “Setting up the Division of Aboriginal Health and Community Wellness is a step in the right direction,” said Jim Antoine, Public Administrator of the Deh Cho Health and Social Services Authority.  “Now we need to work with communities.”  Members agreed to look for ways to enhance prevention and promotion programs and encourage healthy living.

For the first time, the Department and Authorities will collaborate to develop a strategic plan to guide the NWT health and social services system.  There are currently nine strategic plans for the system, said Brenda Johnson, Chair of the Fort Smith Health and Social Services Authority.  “We do them in isolation and that has to stop.”

The JLC includes the Chair or Public Administrator of all Northwest Territories health and social services authorities and the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services.  The Minister of Health and Social Services chairs the group.  The next meeting is scheduled for January in Fort Smith.

Backgrounder Joint Leadership Council Vision Statement

For more information:

Brenda Norris
Media Liaison
Government of the Northwest Territories
Tel: 867-669-2302
Email: brenda_norris@gov.nt.ca