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Detox staff gets a boost

The Yukon's detoxification centre will get a staffing boost, Health Minister Doug Graham announced Thursday.

The Yukon’s detoxification centre will get a staffing boost, Health Minister Doug Graham announced Thursday.

By late fall, the facility should have an additional three registered nurses, three licensed practical nurses and a social worker.

That means patients suffering from withdrawal symptoms should receive more medical care, said Graham.

The changes were prompted by Dr. Bruce Beaton and Chief James Allen’s report on the inadequacies of the territory’s treatment of alcoholics.

“Detox does not provide on-site medical care,” wrote Beaton and Allen in their report. “The upper limit of detox staff credentialing is licensed practical nurse, and many shifts do not provide even that level of expertise.”

That means staff currently treat severe withdrawal symptoms, like delirium tremens or “the shakes,” without medical support.

“This is well below the accepted current standard of care and today’s best practice models,” they wrote. “The current level of care puts Yukoners at risk. We are capable of doing better and should do so.”

The staffing boost will cost $628,000, said Dorothea Warren, assistant deputy minister of social services.

Graham has also pledged to replace the aging Sarah Steele Building, in which the detox facility is currently located. But it remains unclear when a new facility will be built.

Graham also touted how his government recently created a special clinic to cater to downtown residents struggling with addictions.

The Yukon Party government has rejected some of Beaton and Allen’s advice, notably their proposal to create a “sobering centre” downtown, which would house a medical detox and homeless shelter under one roof.

The government is also proceeding with plans to build a better drunk tank at the new jail, which will offer its occupants medical supervision.

Beaton and Allen’s report was spurred by public outrage following the death of Raymond Silverfox, a Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation man. He died in December 2008 from complications of alcohol poisoning in the RCMP drunk tank while guards and officers mocked him.

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