For expectant mothers in the NWT having to travel outside of their home communities to give birth, they won’t have to go it alone any longer.

That’s thanks to a swift benefit change made by the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) on Tuesday.

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Last week, Health Canada announced it would be making changes to the Federal Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program, funding non-medical escorts for pregnant Inuit and First Nations peoples.

Effective April 18, that funding has now been extended throughout the territory to mothers under the Metis Health Benefits Policy and non-Indigenous women as well according to Minister of HSS Glen Abernethy.

“When the federal government came up with this enhancement, we felt that it was important to be consistent so we have extended that to Metis residents of the Northwest Territories as well,” Abernethy told Moose FM.

“We also have non-Aboriginal residents in many of our small communities and they may become pregnant as well. We felt that it was important to be consistent in our application for all of our residents.

“We’re making sure that this service is available to all residents in the Northwest Territories who have to travel outside of their community because there aren’t birthing services in their community.”

A non-medical escort is usually a partner or family member who can provide support for the mother.

Guidelines from Health Canada have not yet been clarified for the NIHB benefit, Abernethy says, but the territorial government will implement an interim measure to provide a non-medical escort for expectant mothers 14 days before their due date in the meantime.

“We wanted to make this available immediately,” he said.

“[We recognize] that births are happening today, tomorrow and the day after, so we wanted to make sure we were there for our residents immediately.”