1,500 Yukoners can’t find a doctor

At least 1,500 Yukoners are without a family doctor. That's how many people have put their names into the health department's doctorless patient registry since it was launched late last year.

At least 1,500 Yukoners are without a family doctor.

That’s how many people have put their names into the health department’s doctorless patient registry since it was launched late last year.

The list continues to grow by a few people per day, said Patricia Living, spokesperson for Health and Social Services.

The online registry will not account for everyone, since it relies on people signing themselves up.

But the department continues to actively look for doctorless patients through various service providers, said Living.

There is no mechanism for people to be taken off the list, if they subsequently find a doctor, she said.

Recruitment efforts are going fairly well, said Dr. Rao Tadepalli, president of the Yukon Medical Association.

He estimated that a year ago there may have been 8,000 patients without a doctor.

Five new physicians have promised to come to the territory over the next half year or so, he said.

“Of course, it’s all fingers crossed until they come here and take root, right?”

If they commit to stay for several years, they could be eligible for recruitment incentives worth many tens of thousands of dollars.

Likely, the new doctor would have to commit to either take on an existing practice or take on a minimum number of new patients, said Tadepalli.

But those details still haven’t been worked out, he said.

By the end of the year, we may be in a situation where clinics are open to new patients,

said Tadepalli.

Currently, Health and Social Services operates a hotline that people can call to find out if any doctors are accepting new patients.

The most recent recorded message indicates that no clinics are currently registering new patients, with the exception of pregnant women seeking maternity care.

River Valley Medical Clinic is accepting walk-in patients on Saturdays.

It will also accept walk-ins Monday through Friday, but patients with an appointment are given priority.

Official Opposition NDP MLA Jan Stick launched her own campaign to hear the health-care stories of Yukoners back in April.

Since then she has heard from patients and medical professionals about the difficulty of accessing appropriate care, she said.

The biggest trend is simply not being able to find a family doctor, she said.

She has heard from people who regularly go to the emergency room for routine care like prescription refills and pap smears, said Stick.

“What’s wrong with this picture? It’s not what our emergency room is for, it’s inefficient, and it’s very costly.”

Recruiting new doctors is important, but so is encouraging more nurse practitioners to come to the territory, and making it easier for pregnant women to access midwives, she said.

“We need sustainable health care. And it needs to be patient-centred, not doctor-centred.”

Stick would like to see the government report on where doctor recruitment money has been spent, and what the outcomes have been.

“So you’ve spent $6 million, what’s the result? Don’t just tell us ‘yeah we’re spending money,’ tell us what we’re getting for our money.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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