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Memo spills beans on promised walk-in clinic, which could open without doctors

Official Opposition has concerns physicians will be poached from their own practice to staff clinic
A memo to all physicians was provided from the Yukon Party to reporters on Nov. 16. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

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.

McPhee said there’s a pool of 101 doctors who are members of the Yukon Medical Association, with 75 of them classified as primary care physicians, also known as general practitioners, and seven of those have a retired status. Of the remaining 68 doctors, 30 aren’t attached to a primary list of patients at this time. For example, those 30 may work in research, the emergency room and other types of clinics.

“We have 30 individuals here who are fully trained and wonderfully professional doctors that we’re hoping to encourage to support the walk-in clinic in some ways, as part of their work, support the hospitalist program, if they’re interested in doing that, and continue to do the kinds of work they do in different places,” McPhee said.

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.

Per the memo, the clinic will provide “timely access to person-centred, trauma-informed, primary health care for Yukoners.”

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 notes physicians will work with medical office assistants, licensed practical nurses, social workers and a clinical manager.

Per the memo, doctors won’t have to follow up on results ordered from the walk-in clinic outside of their scheduled shifts at the clinic, follow-up results will be reviewed by physicians and nurse practitioners when they become available and doctors who get results for patients that are not attached to them should direct the results back to the walk-in clinic.

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.

The two continuously disagreed on “the facts.”

“We can take an approach where we all work on this issue together, something that is incomprehensible to the members opposite,” McPhee said.

“The work of this committee aligns with the ongoing collaborative efforts of the federal government and the provincial and territorial governments working together through ministries and other officials, and we are supporting the recent investments in health human resources in Canada.”

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.

“The minister can try to pretend that she’s not trying to take doctors away from the patients that they have now, but the facts say otherwise,” Cathers said.

“In the expression of interest that her department issued, it is clear that the government is directly trying to recruit physicians with existing practices to work at the walk-in clinic. In fact, they are even offering those doctors more money per hour than they are willing to pay new doctors who might move here.”

In response, McPhee indicated there’s more than one way to solve a problem.

“At full capacity, we anticipate that the clinic will be staffed by nurse practitioners as well as serviced by physicians on contract hours that will not take away from their original practices,” she said.

“I think they can design their businesses.”

The Yukon NDP raised questions about the walk-in clinic earlier in the fall sitting.

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.

“I feel like I’m a lot closer, but the truth of the matter is, there’s a lot of really important things happening with the confidence and supply agreement,” she said.

“I’ve been assured that the clinic will open before the end of January, and I’m holding on to that.”

Applying doctors must hold a certificate from the College of Family Physicians and be licensed to practice in the territory.

Applications close on Nov. 20.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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