Alberta 'fully prepared' and 'glad' to take on N.W.T births for next 2 months

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Northwest Territories women face having to travel to Edmonton to give birth because of staffing shortages at the territory's largest hospital. 

The health authority began notifying families earlier in the week that Stanton Territorial Hospital's labour and delivery services will be suspended except for emergencies between Dec. 10 and Feb. 21. 

Officials attributed the decision to "staffing challenges, particularly nursing" leaving the hospital unable to ensure enough staff for a full volume of births. They called the issuance more acute in specialized skills like obstetrics. 

A spokesperson for Alberta Health Services said the territory's southern neighbour had the capacity to help without impact on its own residents. 

"We are working together with the Northwest Territories to ensure all expecting families have the support they need, including having a plan in place for where they will receive care and safely deliver their babies," Kerry Williamson told CTV News Edmonton. 

"The majority of expectant families will receive care in Edmonton. Patients may be able to request a referral elsewhere in Alberta, depending on capacity and individual care needs."

Families who would normally plan to give birth in Yellowknife will need to travel to Edmonton before or during their 37th week of pregnancy. They have been told to expect to be in Alberta's capital city, some 1,400 kilometres south, for three to five weeks. 

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority is providing medical travel support and is offering to work with families on determining other needs. 

Williamson noted Alberta and the Northwest Territories have had a partnership and protocols in place since before the pandemic to offer medical aid this way.