Yellowknife nurses left in limbo following mercy flight cancellation

There's still no word on a rearranged flight

Yellowknife nurses left in limbo following mercy flight cancellation

In the shadow of looming wildfires, a sudden cancellation of a mercy flight in Yellowknife has intensified concerns for nurses and patients. This abrupt decision left many in a state of heightened concern and uncertainty.

The mercy flight was scheduled to transport patients from Yellowknife's Stanton Territorial Hospital to safety, but was cancelled on August 17. The exact reasons for the cancellation remain unknown, with only the NWT’s health authority stating it had “aborted” the attempt due to unforeseen changes.

“Staging of a small number of patients for transport had begun today and then was aborted as NTHSSA was informed of changes,” the NWT health authority told Cabin Radio. “Patients were returned safely to the hospital and their care will be continued as inpatients until updated transport arrangements are confirmed.”

Thousands of residents in Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, are in a desperate rush to evacuate with over 200 fires blazing in the region. These fires are part of a larger crisis, with Canada experiencing its most severe fire season on record. Over 1,000 fires are currently burning across the nation, with the smoke from these fires even affecting air quality in the US.

This sudden turn of events left many nurses feeling stranded and in the dark. One nurse told Cabin Radio: “We were all set for an evacuation. We had transported the patients in the stretchers down to the designated area. Military planes were supposed to come and pick up patients from the airport.”

Some staff were left with a dilemma regarding their own evacuation plans. Another nurse chimed in: “We don’t have answers. When will the military pick up the patients? When will everybody be safely evacuated? When we asked what would happen if we chose to go, because of our situation or family waiting for us, they didn’t have answers. They just said if you are scheduled to work, you have to come or else you will have consequences.”

The NWT’s health authority tried to provide some clarity amidst the chaos. Last Thursday, health authority spokesperson David Maguire said that a flight for patients might take place “in the next 24 to 36 hours.” He assured that essential workers remaining in Yellowknife would be provided with evacuation transport once they were released from duty.

Medical director Dr. Claudia Kraft acknowledged the challenging circumstances, stating that the NWT had “essentially lost a huge proportion of our acute care and long-term care services in the span of a couple of weeks.”

“People really want to know what’s happening today for the hospital,” Kraft told Cabin Radio. “We’re working with a number of partners within and outside the territory to ensure that all the patients who are currently admitted at Stanton are able to be safely evacuated to other care sites where they can have sustained medical care.”