Dawson nurses feel dissed, warns MLA

Dawson City's nurses are ready to leave town, says Klondike MLA Sandy Silver.

Dawson City’s nurses are ready to leave town, says Klondike MLA Sandy Silver.

They’re upset because they expect to receive a demotion once the community’s new hospital replaces the existing nursing station one year from now, said Silver.

In Yukon’s communities, nurses are expected to play a broader role in delivering primary health care – the sort of stuff expected of doctors in urban centres.

“These are the types of nurses that can suture a wound, set a broken arm, give drugs, or be on that frontline in the emergency wards,” said Silver in an interview.

But nurses aren’t expected to serve these “expanded-scope” positions in the new hospital, said Silver. “In the acute-care model, they’re not getting hired.”

Dawson has approximately four expanded-scope nurses, said Silver. They currently work for the Department of Health and Social Services, but the new hospital will be run by the Yukon Hospital Corporation.

So far, the corporation hasn’t offered these nurses jobs in their expanded role, said Silver. “They keep saying, ‘We’re looking into it.’”

The nurses could continue to work for the health department. But, to do so, they’d have to move from the community once the nursing station closes.

That’s why Silver warned the legislature on Tuesday that “nurses have been forced to consider selling their homes and pulling their children out of school because they are too qualified for the acute health-care model that the Yukon Hospital Corporation has ensured for community hospitals.”

Neither the Yukon Registered Nurses Association nor the hospital corporation could be reached for comment before deadline.

Ross River mulls power play

The Ross River Dena Council is looking at building run-of-the-river hydroelectric projects and wind farms as a money-making scheme.

The First Nation’s business arm recently received a federal grant to conduct a business study on these potential ventures.

The work comes as the territorial government prepares its independent power producer policy. These rules would allow private companies, such as the First Nation’s development corporation, to feed power into the Yukon’s energy grid.

The territory already must burn dirty and expensive diesel during the winter months. And, with several more mines expected to be built soon, this demand is expected to continue to climb.

Ottawa is also providing the council with money to help with their negotiations with Selwyn Resources over an impact and benefits agreement. The company wants to develop a massive lead and zinc mine in the First Nation’s traditional territory.

In all, Ottawa is doling out $267,000 to the council for both projects.

Pickhandle Lakes plan pushes on

A plan to protect the Pickhandle Lakes is proceeding with the aim of having the area designated as a habitat-protected area by July, 2012.

The 51-square-kilometre area is a complex of small lakes, marshes and bogs connected to the Koidern River. Its northeastern edge is easily reached from the Alaska Highway between Haines Junction and Beaver Creek.

The Kluane First Nation and territorial government agreed to protect the area when the Kluane land-claim deal was signed.

The new designation would offer special protection to wildlife in the area, which is frequented by moose, muskrat and waterfowl.

The territory currently has seven habitat-protected areas. The best known is probably Fishing Branch, near Old Crow.

A draft plan should to be ready by May 2012. One big question the steering committee is still struggling with is whether or how to restrict mineral exploration in the area.

An assessment of minerals within the area boundaries found little of interest, although there is “significant interest” in areas near Pickhandle Lakes, according to a steering committee report.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com