Yukoners deserve better access to the care they need

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Three months ago, I launched a campaign to put Yukon patients and their families back in the centre of our health-care system. I asked Yukoners to tell their health-care stories so we could share them with decision-makers and prompt changes in the design of our health care delivery.

Many Yukoners are telling us about life without a family doctor. Here are some of their stories:

• An individual recently diagnosed with cancer, but with no family doctor, had extra challenges getting referrals, accessing and updating their medical file. This individual has no case manager and no advocate to assist with cancer care.

• A person needed to go to the emergency department simply to get prescriptions renewed.

• An individual’s family doctor was unable to directly order tests at the hospital. The family doctor’s patient was sent to the emergency department so a second doctor there could order the tests needed.

• A family goes through four doctors over the course of one child’s schooling. Quote: “Between doctors, my family has endured attending dirty walk-in clinics and an overworked emergency room. Neither is a practical replacement for a family doctor that knows your history.”

• An individual is too afraid to tell their story for fear of being denied access to doctors.

• An individual has no doctor while living with a chronic condition: each visit to the emergency department means explaining the whole story all over. Various referrals and treatment plans never get integrated into one management plan; specialists’ reports don’t always make it back to the chart.

These stories are difficult to hear. Because of the way care is organized in Yukon, doctors are the sole gatekeepers to most health services Yukoners need: prescriptions, referrals to specialists, diagnostics, and procedures. Bottlenecks in the system impact both the quality and the cost of health care. No wonder Yukoners care so much about the doctor shortage!

How many Yukoners are without a family physician? Millions of precious health-care dollars have been spent on physician recruitment, but there is still a shortage. We asked the minister of Health and Social Services this spring, but have received no current answer: what percentage of our population has no family doctor?

When will Yukoners’ access to appropriate care be improved? Expanded scope nurses (similar to nurse practitioners) provide access to health-care services in Yukon communities with no resident doctor. Across Canada, access to care is

improving with the increased use of clinics where care is delivered in the community by collaborative teams. Just recently, the Yukon Hospital Corporation reversed its decision, and will be including nurse practitioners in its hospitals after all.

There are ways to improve Yukoners’ access to appropriate care. That is why the Yukon NDP Official Opposition commits to bringing these issues to the minister of Health and Social Services, the Yukon Medical Association, the Yukon Hospital

Corporation and the Yukon Registered Nurses’ Association.

I thank all Yukoners who have shared their stories to help improve our health care system. You can share your own story confidentially by emailing jan.stick@yla.gov.yk.ca.

Jan Stick

MLA for Riverdale South