Six health and social services authorities have been replaced by a new, single authority in an effort to improve patient services.

The new authority came into effect on Monday, disbanding authorities for the Beaufort-Delta, the Dehcho, the Sahtu, Yellowknife, as well as the authority in Fort Smith and the Stanton health and social services authority.

Health Minister Glen Abernethy says the territorial health and social services authority should help to make the system more efficient and patient-focused.

“We want to maximize use of our human resources,” said Abernethy. “There are many situations where we have a short term crisis in one of our authorities but we can’t use staff from another authority to help with the crisis.”

Discussions about the new system began in 2013 after complaints were lodged about the bureaucracy of health care, Abernethy says.

The new system, however, is expected to streamline patient information, especially when a patient requires care at multiple locations.

“Right now our system is full of a number of different barriers as a result of eight different management bodies,” said Abernethy. “We’re breaking down the barriers by having a collaborative system.”

Some residents from smaller communities have expressed concern that the new system will mean a centralization of services to Yellowknife.

Under the previous system, regional health authorities were offered input for the region’s needs, but Abernethy says the new system will allow residents to give input for the entire territory.

“The major concerns were that people don’t want to see centralization to Yellowknife,” said Abernethy. “This is something we agree with completely. We’re still providing services, we need to be where the people are.”

While most authorities have been combined, the health authority in Hay River won’t yet be joining the new system. Tlicho region will also retain its community services agency.

Overall, staffing levels aren’t expected to change significantly, though some positions will be repositioned.

“We don’t pretend that everything is going to change on August 1,” Abernethy said. “We recognize the first year is more about structural stuff, but it will give us the ability to be more responsive to our residents.”