Some rural residents have gone a year without dental services, according to one MLA.
Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson says 27 communities are currently without dental services. That’s because travel into rural communities was restricted because of COVID-19, until health centres could be upgraded to meet guidelines about preventing the virus.
“Residents from my riding tell me that they haven’t seen a dentist in the community since COVID-19 started last year,” said Jacobson. “Measures are basically preventing dentists from travel into the communities.”
“I come from a small community, very little space in our health centres, and the communities have a single room for centres that dentists can work in with patients with proper air handling units,” he added.
Back in December, the GWNT announced dental services would be resuming in several rural communities, including in Fort Providence, Sambaa K’e, Fort Simpson, Norman Wells, Fort Resolution and Aklavik.
Other communities in the territory were told they would have visiting dental services return when required upgrades to medical facilities are completed, according to the health department.
But Jacobson says those projects to improve facilities have not been happening and that means dental services have not been happening in most rural communities.
“Building upgrades and installing air exchangers, quality measurement of tools, it’s not a 10-year project,” he said. “It also costs less than flying people out of the community for emergency procedures.”
People who want an appointment have to travel to another community.
“Our communities are hurting, and it always becomes the communities that are an afterthought in this government.”
Back in March, Indigenous Services Canada told NWT Dental Contractors and NWT Health Centres that due to COVID-19 guidelines all non-urgent dental travel would have to be suspended.