Whitehorse Daily Star

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Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and NDP MLA Emily Tredger

McPhee rules out a YG-run medical clinic

The Yukon government is under fire for failing to act quickly or decisively to address the loss of the territory’s only walk-in medical clinic during the summer.

By Tim Giilck on October 21, 2021

The Yukon government is under fire for failing to act quickly or decisively to address the loss of the territory’s only walk-in medical clinic during the summer.

After one of the two doctors at the clinic left the Yukon, the walk-in portion of the practice was closed due to staffing issues.

Clinic staff have been unable to find a replacement physician as yet, so the clinic remains closed to walk-in traffic.

That’s a huge blow to any of the estimated 2,000 Yukoners without a family doctor who relied on the service as an alternative to going to an emergency room at a hospital for routine matters such as prescription renewals.

NDP MLA Emily Tredger raised the issue during question period in the legislature Wednesday, and sparred with Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee over it.

“Over a month ago, the Yukon lost its only walk-in medical clinic,” Tredger reminded MLAs.

“For over 2,000 Yukoners who don’t have a family doctor, this was their only access to primary care. This was their only place to get prescriptions, checkups, and referrals.

“Now, all these people need to go to the already-crowded (hospital) emergency room for non-emergency care. This is a massive waste of health care resources,” Tredger said.

“What immediate action is the minister taking to close this giant gap in health care services?”

McPhee did not answer the question directly. Instead, she talked about the difficulties the Yukon is facing in recruiting doctors.

“This is, of course — and I say ‘of course’ because everyone knows that, during the course of the pandemic and before, physician and nurse recruitment has been an issue all along.

“What I’ve learned recently is that not everyone knows that physicians’ clinics here in the territory operate as private businesses, so we don’t have notification that they are going to close or that they are going to stop taking clients or stop providing services to Yukoners,” McPhee pointed out.

“That becomes something that needs to be responded to through, I think, physician and nurse recruitment.”

Through the Putting People First report, McPhee told the house, the government learned that approximately 21 per cent of Yukoners do not have access to a family physician.

“That’s a serious matter,” she said. “As we implement the recommendations from the report, we’re continuing and committed to ensuring that Yukoners have access to primary care health services.

“The pandemic has significantly impacted our ability to recruit nurses and physicians and other care providers.”

Marianne Blythe, a longtime Whitehorse resident, is one of the patients affected by the situation.

She spoke to the Star a week ago about her medical care for a chronic kidney condition.

Blythe said she had relied on the clinic, and had been a patient of the doctor who has moved south.

She requires regular blood tests to check her kidney function, and said she had a standing order for those tests.

However, with her doctor no longer practising in the territory, her latest round of tests became an ordeal.

Staff at Whitehorse General Hospital told her the standing order was no longer valid – and it took several hours before the paperwork for the simple test could be straightened out.

Now, Blythe said, she has to go to the emergency department every time she requires the test. That’s putting an added strain on both herself and front-line medical staff, she pointed out.

Blythe said she doesn’t understand why the government can’t set up its own clinic to serve Yukon residents who don’t have a doctor.

She pointed to last month’s establishment of the Sixth Avenue supervised consumption site for recreational drug users as an example of what can happen when there’s an incentive to get something done.

Tredger had the same question for McPhee.

“While I appreciate that the minister would like to put the blame on private clinics, providing primary health care is the responsibility of the government,” she noted.

“This wait-list didn’t appear overnight. It wasn’t caused by the closure of the walk-in clinic, but without a walk-in service, the people on this list have no where to go but the emergency room,” said the Whitehorse Centre MLA.

“Can we really say that our health care system is universal when there are over 2,000 people waiting for a family doctor?” she asked McPhee.

“Health care workers at the ER are already burnt-out and overwhelmed. Now they are left dealing with this government’s lack of vision and leadership in health care. This could have been avoided, but here we are,” Tredger added.

“Does the minister expect the hospital to be the primary care provider for an extra 2,000 people who have nowhere else to go?”

McPhee stuck to her talking point about recruitment rather than answering the specific question.

“As I was noting, the pandemic has significantly impacted our ability to get folks to move around the country and come to new places to work in many, many areas,” the minister replied.

“We continue to explore options to connect Yukoners to primary health care services. Previously, we have connected over 1,000 Yukoners with a physician through the find a family doctor program, expanded access to virtual care alternatives, and increased the number of resident pediatricians and psychiatrists, all important elements of the description that the member opposite has given about the health care system.”

As the government implements Putting People First, she said, “we are looking to hire additional nurse practitioners. We are meeting with the Yukon Medical Association to address a physician recruitment and retention plan.

“Soon to be opened in January 2022 will be the bilingual health centre. We think that will help with some pressures, and that primary health care setting in Whitehorse is expected to reduce some of the pressures on the primary health care system.”

Tredger immediately fired back.

“It is not a lack of solutions; it’s a lack of political will,” the New Democrat said.

“Right now, Yukoners need nurse practitioners, we need dietitians, we need registered nurses, we need midwives, we need psychologists, and we need doctors. It is the government’s responsibility to make sure that people in Whitehorse and people in rural Yukon have proper access to primary care.

“When is the government going to open a public walk-in clinic?”

During a session with reporters following question period, McPhee refused to provide a direct answer to that question – until she was cornered on it by a CKRW radio reporter.

In response to his blunt query, McPhee simply said the government has no plans to open a walk-in clinic.

No explanation was provided, as she once again turned the subject to the recruitment of medical personnel.

Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon weighed in on the issue as well, calling McPhee “out of touch.”

He suggested she is even unaware of the problems caused by the lack of clinic services for Yukoners.

Comments (16)

Up 7 Down 3

TheHammer on Oct 25, 2021 at 6:10 pm

YTG run clinic! Like the shelter, attracting the same clientele, given the number of ambulances pulling up at the shelter I would suggest it's an idea without imagination. YTG run clinic means Doctors do not have a choice about clientele. Worst case scenario, psychiatric cases needing therapy lining up for pills.

Up 3 Down 4

YukonMax on Oct 25, 2021 at 7:43 am

Yes! That is right! The clinic was operated like a sweat shop at time. Some local health care providers in my commumity said " He's the Mother Theresa of all addicts". However, being from the communities dealing with the "doctor of the day" leads many to seek health care in Whitehorse. I walked in one day and it pretty much saved my life. Yes I travel many hours to get to Dr. Seyed, but I'll drive to him before I hop on a medevac again. Communities need a resident doctor. I'll die on my own term before I allow many of the visiting doctors to see me.

Up 18 Down 5

Yukong on Oct 23, 2021 at 4:08 pm

"Through the Putting People First report, McPhee told the house, the government learned that approximately 21 per cent of Yukoners do not have access to a family physician."

Does the minister realize that's actually over 9000 citizens without access to regular medical care?

It boggles the mind that the government can fund a facility to cater to drug use when over 9000 people don't have a family doctor. Here's the thing, you can't even access many services, especially mental health, without a referral from your family doctor!

In the Yukon, there has been no active doctor recruiting since April 2020. I think what Silver and McPhee need to answer is, WHAT are they doing right now to fix the situation? We'll never know, as long as they stick to those talking points.

Up 25 Down 2

Sheepchaser on Oct 23, 2021 at 10:04 am

As a retired emergency healthcare worker, I feel compelled to say that my experience at the closed walk-in was cause for me to write to the licensing authority for the physician. In my opinion, there was a severe competence and due-diligence issue underlying a wholesale corruption of medical ethics. Good riddance!

That said, the citizen quoted in the article is exactly right. Canadian law states unequivocally that healthcare is a provincial/territorial mandate. The minister is way too comfortable with the established governing model of waiting until problems in the Yukon fester to the point where the federal level is left with no option but to intercede with more money. This is a governing model which the Minister themselves crafted over the years of their leadership.

Can’t believe I’m going to agree with Mr. Dixon in entirety regarding one of his statements, but, ‘Out of touch’ is perfection in brief with regards to Minister McPhee.

Up 22 Down 5

Juniper Jackson on Oct 22, 2021 at 5:36 pm

People think Doctors and nurses are over paid.. Ask that person with a stroke at 3 am, heart stopping, vaguely aware of the silence as everyone in that room saves his/her life. Ask that Mother whose baby has stopped breathing if the doctors and nurses are over paid. I was in day surgery when someone came in that had been in a fight, and the nurse was picking glass out of his face, blood all over, I threw up for 3 days. These people see every day, terrors and ugliness that can never be unseen. They struggle to balance a family and a practice. But, they get out of bed at midnight to answer a call from Emerge.
If all it takes is money to recruit? To keep? Give them the damned money. Silver can borrow money to pay for a running track that has limited users, he can damned well borrow money to well staff our communities. You, or me. never know what the next hour will bring.. a car accident? A teen on drugs? An aneurism? Oh..I'm sorry, you'll have to die, the Liberals wanted to quibble over money.. your stroke is costing too much and we don't have the money for it. Bye bye.

Up 20 Down 3

Vern Schlimbesser on Oct 22, 2021 at 5:09 pm

There is a white elephant in the territory. I am sure the Government in power would like us to believe this is all Covid related. There is more to this than we are being shown.
Doctors and nurses are leaving in droves, I can name a half -dozen of the tip of the tongue. The new orthopedic left before he even arrived, (with him went the knee and hip surgery backlog solution this Gov. promised. What did he see when he got here?).
The clinic you people are criticizing was in effect a sort of "clinic of last resort" (not many people spotted there were from the upper or middle income bracket, and yes it might have been a factory-line).
So yeah blame the doctors who left. Blame the poor patients with no options.
Don't blame the elected lawyer with authority and responsibility to fix it.
It might have started years ago, but the pace of the collapse is accelerating.

Up 19 Down 12

well, I hate to agree with her but on Oct 22, 2021 at 10:08 am

Medical clinics are privately-run enterprises, walk in or not. I'd rather she and the government focus on recruiting more doctors and nurses in general, but opening a walk in clinic to compete with existing clinics wouldn't be right. If there is truly a demand for it, one will open (hopefully the existing one will be able to find another doctor).

Up 28 Down 1

yukonmom on Oct 21, 2021 at 7:39 pm

As an allied health professional, I have heard too many stories of poor quality health care from that clinic to mourn its loss. The clinic processed a lot of people in spectacularly short time frames. One friend told a story of getting his license renewed for driving the big trucks. Said Dr signed the papers, told him to pay at the front and sent him out without any testing at all. Not to say there isn't a need for a place for people to go for health care that isn't emerg, just that the need has been there for years and this clinic was only an appearance of a solution.

Up 23 Down 2

TheHammer on Oct 21, 2021 at 5:29 pm

One Doctor left, One Doctor remains. The remaining Doctor refuses to see the patients of the Doctor who left, never mind walk ins. Based on my experience they're better off seeing a Doctor at emergency.

Up 33 Down 5

Olav on Oct 21, 2021 at 5:06 pm

Total Yukon Government incompetence!
AWOL nailed it- Kate holds power, but has sold her sole to the devil.
What credentials does McPhee have?
She has messed up any portfolio assigned to her.
Only a weatherman can be wrong as often, and still retain their job!

Up 29 Down 5

Thomas Brewer on Oct 21, 2021 at 5:04 pm

The government HAS implemented private clinics before.... Dawson City Medical Clinic and the Referred Care Clinic in Whitehorse were both taken over by YG in recent years.

The reason you don't find many Nurse Practitioners in Yukon is because the Yukon Medical Council crippled the NP's scope of work because they're far too protectionist of their own cash cow - prescriptions and less complex patients.
They don't want to have to work hard to check off the billing boxes of their exorbitant fee for service schedule.

The government is guilty of not engaging in meaningful, effective negotiations with the YMA, both around the NP's scope and the overly generous fee for service schedule.

Up 21 Down 19

Rick S on Oct 21, 2021 at 5:02 pm

Low on teachers and low on medical staff. So let's eliminate 15-20% more with vaccine mandates.

Up 82 Down 9

I shake my head…. on Oct 21, 2021 at 4:10 pm

So why are we not seeing this minister released from duties. Surely they can …..
Last duty in Education a real mess now coming to the forefront, now with the health care???? Yukoners are going to be failed big time and it is going to result in very bad health situations/scenarios.

Up 92 Down 13

yukongirl on Oct 21, 2021 at 3:57 pm

Yet another reason not to live in Whitehorse ... no affordable housing ... government authorized drug dens downtown ... pedophiles in the schools ... no medical care available ... teenagers assaulted ... wow, the capital is just filled with great things on this election day.

Up 72 Down 10

Matthew on Oct 21, 2021 at 3:39 pm

A capital city in Canada without a walk in clinic.. think about that 1 second.. and you think we still live in a 1st world society? LOL

Up 77 Down 14

AWOL on Oct 21, 2021 at 2:49 pm

More evident every day we have a lame duck LIberal government gone AWOL running down the clock to their pension eligibility date. A big bet that none of the Ministers will run again after that so they have no incentive to perform or answer anything. They are all smart enough to know they will be wiped out for the YP at the next election.

This is increasingly all on the NDP for shoring up this shell of a government. They have the power to pull this and cut those pensions off.

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