The Yukon government has just launched a medical hotline that, through a simple phone call, puts residents in touch with a nurse.
It’s a great idea. But it’s not new.
Years ago, when an anxious parent was worried about the angry looking spot on their child’s arm, they could just phone the Whitehorse General Hospital and talk to a nurse.
They’d say, “A spot? Don’t bother me with nonsense.”
And then they’d slam the phone down.
It was an efficient system, and put one’s mind at ease.
We’re kidding, of course.
The nurse would assess the danger to the patient and offer the nervous parent some soothing medical advice — “put a dollop of calamine lotion on it.” Or, if there was something odd or disturbing about the situation, the nurse would urge the patient to visit Emergency so a doctor could have a look.
It was efficient and did, in fact, put your mind at ease.
The service ended when a local doctor was hit with a malpractice lawsuit.
That forced local doctors and nurses to be a lot more conservative in their approach to on-the-fly diagnoses of patients.
Many people lamented the loss of the much-appreciated call-a-nurse service.
The Yukon issued a medical handbook that helped fill that gap.
By flipping through its pages, people could figure out what needed immediate attention, and how to treat the less pressing ailments and injuries.
That book’s a useful tool. But there’s nothing like talking to a real person.
And now that service has returned to the Yukon.
Residents throughout the territory can call 811 and ask an actual nurse their medical questions.
This triage is going to save emergency-room doctors time.
It’s going to put rural minds at ease —they’re now going to be able to get simple medical advice through the phone.
It’s going to save people trips to the hospital.
And it’s going to save the government money.
It’s a great idea.
The one question we had was why the Yukon has to rely on BC nurses to answer residents’ health concerns?
Seems a bit weird to have to teach nurses that Old Crow is a fly-in community. Or that Faro is hours from a hospital.
Why not just assign a local nurse to the phone?
After all, residents used to call the hospital for similar advice.
And then it dawned on us.
The Yukon — with its bush-league recruiting practices, its terrible workplace reputation (known for overworking nurses and bullyboy tactics from management) and its incomprehensible aversion to hiring full-time nurses — can’t fill vacancies on its medical wards at the hospital and at Copper Ridge Place, let alone answer a phone call.
So the job was exported to the South.
As we said, good idea. Typical execution. (RM)