Dawson short on docs

When it is struggling to keep a single doctor in town, Dawson City residents are wondering how the Yukon government will staff a hospital. Two weeks ago the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board held a public meeting.

When it is struggling to keep a single doctor in town, Dawson City residents are wondering how the Yukon government will staff a hospital.

Two weeks ago the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board held a public meeting to discuss the Yukon Hospital Corporation’s new facility.

A poignant question was asked by town councillor Stephen Johnson.

Dawson’s current doctor, Gerard Parsons, is leaving for a year-long sabbatical in July and hasn’t found someone to replace him for the duration of that time.

Where, Johnson was curious to know, will the Yukon Hospital Corporation find the staff to run its facility?

Even when doctors have been found, another issue will be finding places for them to live.

The town is experiencing a serious shortage of housing and Johnson questions where these new doctors will live after they move to Dawson.

“I just find it really interesting that we’re going to have a hospital with a whole stack of doctors and nurses and I just wonder what’s happening as far as the human resources for this enterprise goes,” said Johnson.

The criticism is one of many residents have lobbed at the Yukon Hospital Corporation in regards to the proposed facility.

The building’s location, next to Minto Park and overlapping the main tent site for the Dawson City Music Festival, has triggered the biggest outcry amongst residents.

So, too, has the design of the building, which residents say doesn’t blend well with nearby heritage buildings, like the Dawson City Museum.

Meanwhile others question the actual need for a $25-million hospital facility in a town of about 1,000 people.

“We’re building a so-called hospital – is it really just an office building with a nursing station attached,” said Johnson.

The new facility won’t even have the resources to deliver babies, he points out. “And we used to deliver a whole whack of babies up here in Dawson.”

The hospital corporation is hoping that word of a modern facility in Dawson will attract doctors north, said hospital liaison nurse Val Pike.

Ultimately, however, the responsibility to retain any doctors will be up to the territorial government.

“We don’t hire physicians,” said Yukon Hospital Corporation CEO Joe MacGillivray.

“We do, however, have a huge interest in ensuring there are doctors at the hospital.”

The corporation envisions at least three physicians working out of the new facility. They’ll be assisted by about 40 staff, similar to the size of the hospital facility in Watson Lake, said MacGillivray.

“We’ve already started to discuss with the government how to recruit and retain staff,” he said, adding that the corporation plans to work with Yukon Housing to source out housing for them.

But the issue of staffing is still a ways down the road, said MacGillivray, explaining that the opening of the 2,100 square metre facility won’t happen until December of 2012.

Until then, Dawson still faces the possibility of losing its only doctor.

Two doctors have been found to replace Parsons over the summer months, but neither will stay come fall, said Health and Social Services spokesperson Pat Living.

Parsons owns a private clinic and isn’t on contract with the government. That means Parsons, not the government, is responsible for finding a replacement when he’s gone, but the government is still stepping in to help Parsons secure a doctor for the town, said Living.

“We recognize that Dawson needs a physician,” she said.

The Health and Social Services Department would like to see two full-time doctors, instead of one, taking care of residents in Dawson in the short term, she said.

But how Parsons or the government will attract those two doctors come September is still unclear.

“We’re not there yet,” said Living.

Contact Vivian Belik at


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

Just Posted

City of Whitehorse’s Selkirk pump house on Selkirk Road in Riverdale on Jan. 26. Whitehorse city council decided Jan. 25 that there will be no advantage for local firms planning to submit proposals for the final report and design of a second barrier water treatment project for the Selkirk pump house. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
No local content weighting on pump house contract

Work will see design for water treatment system

The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board is issuing $10 million in rebates to employers this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Yukon employers to receive $10-million in rebates from Workers’ Compensation Board

Eligible employers will receive cheques based on total premiums paid in 2020

Connie Peggy Thorn, 52, pleaded guilty Jan. 27 to manslaughter in the 2017 death of Greg Dawson. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse woman pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of Greg Dawson

Connie Thorn, 52, was arrested in October 2019 and pleaded guilty in Supreme Court on Jan. 27.

Abigail Jirousek, left, is tailed by Brian Horton while climbing a hill during the Cross Country Yukon January Classic in Whitehorse on Jan. 23. Jirousek finished second in the U16 girls category. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Cross Country Yukon hosts classic race

Cross Country Yukon hosted a classic technique cross-country ski race on Jan.… Continue reading

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver talks to media on March 5, 2020. The Yukon government said Jan. 25 that it is disappointed in a decision by the federal government to send the Kudz Ze Kayah mining project back to the drawing board. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Territorial and federal governments at odds over Kudz Ze Kayah mine project

The federal government, backed by Liard First Nation, sent the proposal back to the screening stage

Yukon RCMP’s Historial Case Unit are seeking the public’s help locating Bradley MacDonald, a 42-year-old man who has been missing since Aug. 5, 2019. (RCMP handout)
Historical Case Unit seeks man missing since 2019

Yukon RCMP’s Historial Case Unit are seeking the public’s help locating a… Continue reading

Yukon RCMP said in a press release that they are seeing an increase in tinted front passenger windows and are reminding people that it is illegal and potentially dangerous. (RCMP handout)
RCMP warn against upward trend of tinted windows

Yukon RCMP are seeing more vehicles with tinted front passenger windows, prompting… Continue reading

An arrest warrant has been issued for a 22-year-old man facing two tickets violating the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em>. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Arrest warrant issued for CEMA violation

An arrest warrant has been issued for Ansh Dhawan over two tickets for violating CEMA

The office space at 151 Industrial Road in Marwell. At Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 25 meeting, members voted to sign off on the conditional use approval so Unit 6 at 151 Industrial Rd. can be used for office space. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Marwell move set for land and building services staff

Conditional use, lease approved for office space

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Most Read