The walk-in clinic promised for Whitehorse by January 2024 could open without doctors, according to the Yukon health minister.
A walk-in clinic is currently an unfulfilled commitment in the confidence and supply agreement between the Yukon Liberal Party and the Yukon NDP. In effect, the NDP is propping up the Liberal government through CASA.
Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee previously pledged to open a walk-in clinic in 2022 that never opened because the business model failed. She noted three local physicians who run general practices and have front-line knowledge have been guiding the design of this new clinic, which is intended to employ doctors and nurse practitioners on its team.
“If the nurse practitioners are hired prior to a physician, we may be able to open with their scope of practice and their ability to serve Yukoners,” McPhee told reporters in the Yukon government’s cabinet office on Nov. 16.
A Nov. 9 memo from the director of integrated services to all physicians is seeking expressions of interest from resident and non-resident physicians to provide care at the new Whitehorse Walk-In Medical Clinic.
It will provide care for non-urgent conditions, particularly for Yukoners without a dedicated primary care provider or those who can’t get a timely appointment.
The temporary location will be 9010 Quartz Rd.
The clinic will run Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. It will close on statutory holidays.
The memo states physicians will be paid by contract. It indicates there are two classes of compensation: $230 per hour for physicians with existing practices for the first two shifts worked at the clinic each month and $200 per hour for physicians without a family practice or any shifts worked beyond the initial two per month.
The Official Opposition provided the memo to reporters on Nov. 16.
The expression of interest comes at a time when the Whitehorse General Hosptial is struggling to find physicians for its hospitalist program. Meanwhile, thousands of Yukoners don’t have a family doctor or primary health-care provider and the other government-run clinic doesn’t have any doctors hired to work there.
The Yukon Party is concerned that the current approach to hiring doctors won’t fix the doctor shortage but could add to burn out.
Yukon Party health critic Brad Cathers suggests that, without recruiting more doctors from Outside to the Yukon, the approach will deliberately pull physicians out of their own busy offices to work at the walk-in clinic, thereby increasing wait times for their own patients.
During the question period on Nov. 16, Cathers pressed McPhee on the approach based on the memo.
Cathers said that the approach may serve the Liberals’ political interest by trying to keep the NDP from pulling its support under CASA, but it undermines the health system and will lead to people waiting longer for care.
In response, McPhee indicated there’s more than one way to solve a problem.
When reporters asked Yukon NDP Leader Kate White if she shared the Yukon Party’s concerns about poaching local doctors, she said she won’t take direction or advice from the Yukon Party.
“It will be really up to seeing how it rolls out in January, to be honest,” she told reporters in the lobby of the legislature on Nov. 16.
White doesn’t have hard plans to pull the plug on CASA.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org