Home Radio codes Changes to NWT virtual care should be reconsidered, medical group says

Changes to NWT virtual care should be reconsidered, medical group says



According to the NWT Medical Association, proposed changes to how out-of-territory physicians provide virtual care could have negative consequences for patients.

Last year, Health Minister Julie Green introduced Bill 40, which would allow medical practitioners licensed elsewhere in Canada to provide virtual care to out-of-territory NWT residents.


In a statement on Tuesday, the Northwest Territories Medical Association acknowledged that such a change would help territorial doctors refer to medical professionals elsewhere.

But the association said some of the changes proposed by the bill were “potentially harmful to the quality and cultural safety of patient care in the Northwest Territories.”

The medical association is challenging plans to allow doctors from anywhere in Canada to apply for a virtual NWT license, regardless of their connection to the territory or their knowledge of its geography and resources.

The association said taking the step could worsen health care inequities in the Northwest Territories and potentially increase costs to the territory’s health care system for no benefit.

According to the association, these physicians would not be able to order lab or diagnostic imaging tests, or access the NWT’s electronic medical records. It would be “extremely risky”, the association said, because there would be no record of the visit in the Northwest Territories, making it difficult for patients to seek redress if something went wrong – and preventing doctors locals to know what care has been provided.

“Fundamentally, we believe that Bill 40 will be detrimental to the health care of NWT residents and should not be passed unless significantly amended,” Tuesday’s press release said.


Dr. Kate Breen, a Yellowknife emergency physician and member of the medical association’s executive, told Cabin Radio that the proposal to expand virtual care should be “re-examined with more input from physicians in the territory.”

The association separately opposes the bill’s proposed expansion of the territorial government’s power to set or adopt standards, saying such standards should be set by a regulatory body independent of government.

“There is a potential conflict of interest,” Dr. Breen said, “because government priorities don’t always align with priorities that would be decided by the medical profession.

“As a self-regulatory body, it’s important that physicians themselves establish their codes.

In its press release, the NWT Medical Association said comments had been given to the territorial government, but it had “not yet received a satisfactory response.”

On Monday, Breen said, a member of the committee reviewing the bill said the association’s comments were being considered.

Communications officials for the health minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Report recommended simplifying licenses

Virtual care – the practice of providing health care remotely, such as by telephone or video – has played a role in the NWT healthcare system for decades and has become particularly important during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The territorial government, setting out the basics for Bill 40 last year, said current policies and laws stand in the way, as doctors can only provide virtual care if they are already licensed in the Northern Territories. -Where is.

According to the territory, Bill 40 would create a new category of registration and licensing for physicians practicing virtual care. The bill would make it possible to post a registry of physicians online, making their information more accessible to residents of the NWT.

Kam Lake MLA Caitlin Cleveland, speaking in the Legislative Assembly in March 2020 – just days before the pandemic hit the territory – said there was a need for more virtual care in the Northwest Territories.

She pointed to recommendations from a February 2020 report on virtual care from a national committee co-chaired by Yellowknife physician Dr. Ewan Affleck.

This report called for improved digital systems to better exchange health care information, simplified registration and licensing so physicians can provide virtual care across provincial and territorial borders, and the creation of payment for virtual care.

Other MPs have so far supported the changes proposed in Bill 40. The law passes its second reading in November 2021, with three readings required before a bill becomes law.