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Yukon Party slams government’s inability to prevent rural health centre closures

Pelly Crossing Health Centre will be closed for second time in recent months due to staffing woes
Yukon Party MLA for Kluane Wade Istchenko leans in to a response to his question in the Yukon Legislative Assembly on April 26. In a Sept. 22 press release, he said the Yukon government is ignoring the needs of rural Yukoners amid the closure of the Pelly Crossing Health Centre for the second time in recent months. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

The Pelly Crossing Health Centre is temporarily closing again due to staffing shortages — and the Yukon Party is not impressed with the government’s inability to prevent these kinds of closures and service reductions that have been tallying up across the territory.

“It was unacceptable in July, and it’s unacceptable now,” Kluane MLA Wade Istchenko said in a Sept. 22 release from the Yukon Party about the issue in Pelly Crossing.

“The minister has had the past few months to take action to address rural health centre closures, but they are still happening. It’s unfortunate that this Whitehorse-centric Liberal government continues to ignore the needs of rural Yukoners.”

The last few months since May have seen well over 100 days of temporary closures and reduced services at close to half of its health centres in communities due to health-care worker shortages.

According to a Facebook post by the Health and Social Services department on Sept. 21, the health centre in Pelly Crossing will be closed from Sept. 22 to Sept. 28.

There will be no nurse in the community during that period. Per the post, people with an emergency should call 911 and those with non-emergency health issues should contact the 24-hour healthline at 811.

In the release, the Yukon Party suggested the rolling closures of health centres is just one of several attempts by the government to reduce services in communities.

The release draws attention to a call from the Association of Yukon Communities, led by president Ted Laking, who is a former Yukon Party staffer, to contemplate permitting licensed practical nurses to fill the gaps when registered nurses aren’t available.

“The Yukon Party has also championed a new health human resources strategy that improves recruitment and retention and helps Yukon citizens become trained as health professionals. Creative Yukon-made solutions such as this would help address rural health centre closures,” reads the release.

The release criticizes the Yukon NDP for continuing to prop up the government. The Yukon Liberal and NDP caucuses currently have a confidence and supply deal in place.

Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee has previously defended the government’s record in a July 27 interview.

McPhee pointed out the vacancy rate for government-employed community nurses had dropped and the “find a primary care provider” program waitlist had dipped. She said solutions include a recruitment and retention bonus package for nurses and a steering committee to address the health-care worker shortage.

Premier Ranj Pillai has concluded his mission to Asia, including India and Japan. The trip was touted in part as an opportunity to make “advancements in health-care recruitment.”

Pillai signed a letter of intent with NORKA ROOTS, which a Sept. 20 press release describes as a Kerala state government agency that supports the recruitment of skilled workers, including health-care professionals, by international governments.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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