letter to the editor325

Ambulance needs backup The Yukon News piece on the Teslin ambulance (i.e. “rural ambulance”) was timely.

Ambulance needs backup

The Yukon News piece on the Teslin ambulance (i.e. “rural ambulance”) was timely.

Two days after the car crash and heart attack incident, a four-person road accident required three people crammed in an ambulance and an air medevac.

The stretch from Jake’s Corner to the Watson Lake halfway point is travelled by locals, Alaskans and many tourists.

They travel in all weather, all manner of wakefulness and, sometimes, at high speeds.

This large local and moving population needs health care in emergencies.

Most do not know ambulance service is a form of Russia roulette. (Tourism department take note.)

Teslin often has only one nurse scheduled for the village, as on this summer weekend.

When that one nurse left in the ambulance with two accident victims there was no nurse in Teslin to deal with all of the other possible events.

And there are often multiple events.

Thus, there was no second nurse to provide service and equipment to the heart attack victim. This was the key point missed by The News’ article.

There are only a volunteer administrator and two ambulance attendants in Teslin, both saddled with heavy radios 24/7 and guilt when they take time off, work (at regular jobs) beyond their radio distance or miss a call.

They are tired. They need relief, a holiday or even retirement.

Other locals are busy, afraid of the dangerous responsibility, unable emotionally to handle traumas, unable to commit so much time and energy, unwilling to undertake new training, unable to handle the physical lifting etc.

There is no pay and tiny reimbursement.

There is no fixed protocol to protect attendants against communicable body fluid-borne health problems.

Attendants do not know, and will not know if a person passed hepatitis, AIDS, etc., to them during the emergency.

Patients cannot be forced to undergo disclosure through health records or tests.

Volunteers (and often professional medical staff) are unprotected. 

The Teslin volunteer ambulance crew has been told by various government and peer bodies to be quieter and less “political.”

Tesliners want and need them to be “political” … if telling the truth and asking for help is being “political.”

They are volunteers and members of our community.

They are democratically free beings with an open right to speak. Those who try to silence them are being “political” in the worst way.

So bless them for their inner moral obligation, and for being open about the blood and guts of emergencies, about being tired, stressed and wisely asking for help.

Your reporter lost an open opportunity for high-quality investigative reporting on this subject.

A ‘holiday mood’, the quest for ‘other’ stories during the brief visit, a failure to gauge the right approach for a conservative local population and a visible bias in the reporter’s questions blew the opportunity away.

Meanwhile, the RCMP and the Nursing Station refused to give the reporter basic information. Why? (Editor’s note: In fact, both an RCMP officer and the local nurse did speak to The News during the paper’s 12-hour stint in the town.)

This is public information. Neutral facts can be given by local RCMP and nurses without their “getting into trouble” as was stated and implied.

It requires commonsense and a morsel of courage. In turn, The News needs a reputation for professional respect in order to be met halfway.

The public deserves better information from both parties to reveal the scope of the ambulance-staffing problem.

Each emergency worker at these events; the lone Teslin nurse in the ambulance, the conscripted driver, the RCMP who handled each case and the volunteer ambulance crew, did their job.

We respect and are grateful to them. That was never an issue.

On Tuesday, a meeting at the Teslin recplex will discuss the problem at 7 p.m.

Maybe the Yukon government will offer to cost-share pay and working hours for a trained, on-call attendant in each village.

Every rural community needs a final solution.

In Teslin, we expect to have little or no ambulance service this summer.

Sharron Chatterton


Criminal coverage

In response to Friday’s Yukon News article Mushing For Government Money, my quotes were grossly taken out of context and used

by the paper for its own agenda.

First, I would like to thank the Tourism Minister Elaine Taylor and her staff for making this generous contribution to the Yukon Quest, as I have done in my statements after Thursday’s media conference.

This is an unprecedented move that deserves full recognition from the mushing community and everyone who benefits from the Yukon Quest (including the Yukon News).

I offered some critical thoughts to the media, as I feel the government’s contribution can only reach its full potential if it is used to attract corporate sponsorship for the Yukon Quest and make it a financial healthy and stable organization in the long term.

The larger purse can attract more mushers. A larger field of competitors can be used as leverage to secure corporate sponsorship. (Quest president Robin Round voiced the same thought during the media conference.)

However, I doubt that the new purse distribution is the most effective to reach this goal.

In my opinion it needs to be reworked.

Contrary to your headline after the Quest AGM, the mushers don’t whine or “squabble” over the purse money.

As a musher I have been breeding dogs specifically to take part in the Yukon Quest and made a commitment that spans several years, if not decades, by caring for these animals.

It is in every musher’s interest that the Quest is a healthy organization, which is why we take part in discussions on how to best structure the purse.

Even if I take a break from running the Quest for a couple of years, I want to be able to return to a healthy race in the future.

It is one of the greatest dog races today.

Editor Richard Mostyn obviously directs reporters to adopt a sensationalistic style of writing that he spices up with negative headlines in order to pursue his own personal agenda against the current government and the Yukon Quest.

There is either good news or bad news for you — and you chose to make this a bad news story.

How about more objective, balanced reporting?

My quotes, combined with the reporter’s negative filler lines have been used to create an extremely negative undertone.

The article lacks any research on the topic.

This is journalism of the cheapest kind.

If you would like to influence local politics as strongly as you obviously want, you should run for public office instead of abusing your powers behind the steering wheel of this newspaper.

The irresponsible way you handled the information I provided borders on criminal negligence.

Gerry Willomitzer,

Quest musher

Shallow Bay