Whitehorse Daily Star

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DOCTORS DEBATE VITAL ISSUES – Katharine Smart, the incoming president of the Yukon Medical Association, and Sandy Buchman, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, are seen last Thursday in Whitehorse.

Importance of virtual health care touted

The Yukon’s doctors met in Whitehorse late last week to discuss implementing virtual care in the territory.

By Gabrielle Plonka on November 4, 2019

The Yukon’s doctors met in Whitehorse late last week to discuss implementing virtual care in the territory.

“Canada is way behind other countries with regards to the use of virtual care,” Sandy Buchman, the president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), said Friday in Whitehorse.

“Our main problem is access to care.”

Buchman was here for the Yukon Medical Association’s (YMA’s) annual general meeting, which took place Friday and Saturday. Virtual care was pitched as an avenue for addressing barriers to health care in the territory.

Buchman said the Yukon suffers the same challenges as the rest of the country –– lack of physicians and providing care in rural areas –– and those problems can be alleviated by virtual care.

The solution, Buchman said, could be as simple as increasing the number of appointments conducted by telephone.

In other provinces, software is just starting to be used which allows clients to speak with their doctors over video and instant messaging.

Still, Buchman estimated that less than one per cent of client visits in the country are conducted virtually.

By contrast, he said, more than half of health care visits are virtual at some American organizations.

Katharine Smart, the YMA’s incoming president, said there was unanimous agreement among Yukon doctors to focus on virtual care at the AGM.

She said the desire to move forward on virtual care is present with physicians and with clients.

“We all wanted to learn about it,” she said. “We all recognize the desire from our patients.”

Implementing virtual care does present some challenges, Smart and Buchman said.

Canadian medical licensing prohibits doctors from treating patients across provincial and territorial borders, limiting the number of physicians who are able to treat Yukoners.

Acquiring a licence to practise outside of your home jurisdiction, Buchman said, requires time and fees that could amount to the thousands of dollars.

The CMA is calling for national licensure to eliminate this problem.

Another challenge, Buchman said, is bringing the federal government on board to invest into virtual care.

Without increased investment, it’s challenging to make virtual care cost-effective.

The YMA is also making strides in assessing the doctor shortage in the territory, according to Smart and Alex Poole, the outgoing YMA president.

The Find a Family Doctor program is expected to roll out this month. Yukoners without a family physician can enroll online and will be matched with the next available doctor.

“We feel strongly that’s going to be the first step in understanding what’s happening,” Smart said.

There are currently very few data to assess the gaps in available physicians, she noted.

There are approximately 60 family doctors practising in the territory, Poole told media Friday afternoon.

Once the need for doctors has been assessed, the YMA can move forward on recruiting with knowledge of the type and number of doctors required in the territory.

“A lot of that is finding people who are interested in working here,” Smart said. “It’s about finding people who want to practise comprehensive family medicine.”

Smart said a likely challenge will be in finding physical office space for the increase in practitioners, should that become necessary.

There is a doctor shortage nation-wide, Buchman said. Nearly five million Canadians are without family practitioners.

Consistent primary care, however, is necessary to developing a solid foundation of health in the country.

“It gets more expensive downstream” when Canadians aren’t consistently seeing a family physician, Buchman said.

On Friday, the YMA passed motions on vaping, First Nations education and climate change.

The motion on vaping urged the Yukon government to impose stricter vaping legislation. It recommended the banning of favoured products and vaping-related advertising, and passed unanimously.

A second motion also passed unanimously, urging the Yukon Medical Council to include First Nations education in the conditions of licensure. It called for the requirement of Yukon First Nations 101, which is offered at Yukon College, or an equivalent course in Indigenous history.

The third motion called for the adoption of the CMA’s climate change policy.

It called on the Yukon government to recognize climate change as a public health emergency, meet the Paris accord agreements and support data collection in relation to health and climate change.

Smart told media that the territory’s comprehensive health review is also nearing completion, with the final report expected in December.

Comments (7)

Up 1 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Nov 9, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Yes Mr. Brewer, Bea Felker has been a driving force behind video tele-health serving the rural Yukon communities for a number of years and doing some wonderful things to help Yukoners get better. To be fair, the technology in use is a couple generations old now and much better is available today.
I still get a suspicious twitch when you consider how many former NWTel executives are on the hospital board and other committees.
But I've been wrong before & will be again.

Up 4 Down 1

Dr. Feelgood on Nov 8, 2019 at 8:34 am

Dear Juniper - Fear is people management. From medicine to economics and everything in between. If you can get enough of the political animals stampeding in the right direction you have control of a system you can manipulate. Words like leadership, integrity, loyalty, steward are the placations we shroud ourselves with to either affirm our ignorance or to demonstrate our ignorance.

People have no sense of what democracy is and yet they wholeheartedly embrace it. They will even defend when they do not understand it.

Yes Juniper - They just want you to... This is the way the system is structured. It is because they do not understand and cannot even begin to comprehend the absolute destruction they are bringing with roar and tramp of their so called democratic herd mentality.

Up 7 Down 1

Juniper Jackson on Nov 6, 2019 at 4:07 pm

I was surprised that a doctors association would come out with 'emergency'.. 'crisis' in regards to climate change, when 6 year olds are so scared they are talking about dying.. not a word about the wood smoke in Whitehorse, which does affect the climate, and impacts health directly. It cast some doubt on how bright these professionals are outside and some inside, of their profession. When everything is an emergency, nothing is an emergency.
I can't wait to hear what they will do when the 'fart' scare hits Whitehorse.. slaughter all the caribou herds? bison? moose? We don't have very many cows maybe they can be butchered and replaced with herds of tofu? As for the Paris Accord.. that treaty is defunct guys.. the west pulled out when they realized it was a UN grab to funnel money into 3rd world countries and funded the largest coal plant in history to feed a mega power plant.. https://www.power-technology.com/projects/san-buenaventura-supercritical-power-project/
So, what does happen to the Green Energy Fund? besides building coal plants that is.. The country contribution to the fund administered by the UN.. (this IS the Paris Accord btw) is voluntary.. and no one is paying up. Some of the west, notably the United States has formally withdrawn. Others just don't pay up.

Telehealth.. The visual face to face with your doctor is important.. maybe not to the group of doctors voting in the medical conference.. but to most. It irritates me no end that doctors are now putting a price on MY health. It's cheaper to see me/not see me on a computer screen? A working Canadian, that would be a tax payer, is paying 66% of their income into some kind of taxation..For what? If we open the door to daily physician care.. in 10 years no one will have to see a doctor in person. I was in the hospital in Vancouver and saw my doctor there 1 time. All of my care rested in the hands of a nurse practitioner, including the prescription for narcotic pain killer. (and she was great btw.) It could be that in the future we will be screened/triaged if you want to see a real person/doctor and someone else will get to decide if you are sick or not. They triage at WGH and every drunk in Whitehorse goes before anyone else for anything.

You folks are doctors..I get it.. you are all socialists by inclination and nature. But, I would feel much better about trusting your skills if you didn't sound like you were peddling snake oil. I also get it that you, being socialists, want to funnel money into underdeveloped countries, share the largess as it were.. but, are you sharing YOUR largess? Or you just want me to?

All that being said.. I absolutely love my doctor. She is caring, kind, wise and smart, totally non judgmental.. totally real..I can so hear her saying..you aren't poor.. you just do without a few things you don't need anyway.. you don't know what poor is.. and she's right.. and I don't want to know either..if I did, I'd move to Vancouver and sleep in a bus shelter.

Up 4 Down 1

YukonMax on Nov 6, 2019 at 8:01 am

Telehealth is money and time saving in some instances and it allows people in the communities to avoid a trip to Whitehorse to see a specialist or a surgeon for the ones that are otherwise relatively healthy and don't need to be seen in person. Yukon Health is already replacing our traveling doctors with nurse practitioners, soon the lobby of our local Nursing Stations will be set up with booths like ATMs. Just slide your health card in to pay for your consults.

Up 6 Down 2

Max Mack on Nov 5, 2019 at 11:11 am

The YMA is not primarily interested in your health, it is more concerned with promoting "regulating" its members and projecting power/status.

These doctors, some of whom vigorously believe in the religious tenets of modern medicine and the "sanctity" of "science", are easily led by politically imposed consensus views. The vaping and climate change motions are perfect examples of this.

As for virtual health, there is potential for new technologies to make health care more accessible and effective in specific situations. However, I'm not convinced that spending untold millions of dollars on technology is better than simply getting doctors in the field.

Up 11 Down 7

jc on Nov 4, 2019 at 9:02 pm

Now just what does climate change do to one's health that can be considered an emergency? Notice, nobody ever tells the public that. Which tells me this whole climate change thing is just a hoax to make money off the taxpayers. So, will somebody explain to me this climate change/health emergency and why its destroying my health.

Up 15 Down 2

Thomas Brewer on Nov 4, 2019 at 4:43 pm

Hasn't there been a videoconferencing network in the territory for years? Why aren't the docs using it? Only thing I can think of is they get paid more to see a patient in person...
Here's an idea for how to get more citizens with a family doc... have docs work more than 6 months a year.

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