The Yukon government has committed to improving healthcare in the territory by implementing all the recommendations in a recent report calling for reform. The Putting People First report is a 204-page document made public on May 13 that focuses on reforming the current healthcare system in the Yukon and aims to improve health outcomes while lowering costs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Advocates say they’re ready to work with government on health care reforms

The wide-ranging changes being considered include phasing out private clinics and imporving access for remote communities

The Yukon government has committed to improving healthcare in the territory by implementing all the recommendations in a recent report calling for reform, but advocates say the work has just begun.

The Yukon Medical Association said it was surprised by the government’s announcement, and has concerns about a number of the recommendations.

“The doctors of Yukon are very concerned about the announcement to accept all 76 recommendations contained in the report without properly consulting first with the YMA,” said acting president Ryan Warshawski in a statement.

“Many of these recommendations will have a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of all Yukoners, not just doctors, and we have not yet had a chance to discuss the implications of the report with the government,” he said.

The association said it is currently in the process of critiquing the report. It still intends to present feedback to the government and “remains committed” to working with the government on implementing the report.

The Putting People First report is a 204-page document made public on May 13 that focuses on reforming the current healthcare system in the Yukon and aims to improve health outcomes while lowering costs.

“I’m really happy to be honest, I didn’t expect the government to accept all the recommendations,” said panelist Diane Strand, one of two current Yukon residents who sat on an independent five-person panel to help craft the report.

Strand said the report is wide-ranging, and it became more expansive as panelists sat down and realized how much needed to be done. Recommendations range from improved mental health support to reconciliation efforts to affordable childcare. All are interconnected.

As part of the report, panelists looked at how other communities approached care, including the Southcentral Foundation — an Alaska Native health care organization — located in Anchorage, Alaska.

“You don’t realize that things could be done differently because it’s so ingrained. To have that change happen is going to take a lot of work. It’s going to take some time and it’s going to take commitment from many people,” she said.

Chapter four of the report is dedicated to improving the health care system for First Nations people.

“Around the Yukon, it was really evident in hearing the stories from First Nations in some communities, that there was a stark difference between the First Nations people and (non-First Nations people), and the treatment that they have received. It was really quite evident,” Strand said.

Council of Yukon First Nations executive director Shadelle Chambers said she is optimistic about the reforms in the report but said it’s important that First Nations continue to have a voice as the system evolves, particularly in a new central agency like Yukon Wellness.

“Those chapter four recommendations are really important and powerful in how First Nations are involved in the delivery of healthcare for their own people,” Chambers said.

Chambers said both physical and cultural barriers currently exist to accessing care.

The report mentions both cultural humility and cultural safety — words that Strand said refer to existing racism in the system that needs to be addressed.

Many residents, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, also live in remote communities where access to care and transportation are difficult to coordinate.

Strand gave an example of a Beaver Creek man who was booked for a 10 a.m. medical appointment in Whitehorse. More sensitivity to the needs of remote communities would ensure an afternoon appointment time that accounted for the five hour drive into town.

For most people health care services are managed by the territory. But currently, Indigenous people in the territory who have formal status under the Indian Act have their health services managed by the federal government. Chambers said the reforms need to consider how that “two-tier” system currently presents challenges for accessing care.

She also referenced the coroner’s inquest earlier this year into the death of Cynthia Blackjack, a 29-year-old Carmacks resident who died on a medevac flight to Whitehorse in 2013. The case raised a number of questions about barriers to care and systemic racism and resulted in eight recommendations for change to the health care system.

“Yukon First Nations look forward to working with the Yukon government. Let’s work together to implement the changes that are needed here,” Chambers said. “It’s a starting point for a paradigm shift for how we deliver health care in the Yukon.”

Contact Haley Ritchie at

Yukon health and social services

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, has an address-to-riding tool

Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read