Doctors for the down and out

Doctors for the down-and-out Whitehorse's homeless may soon have their own medical clinic.

Whitehorse’s homeless may soon have their own medical clinic.

On Thursday, Health and Social Services announced plans to set up a community health clinic in downtown Whitehorse to “provide health care to clients with complex needs,” according to a government press release.

The clinic will cater to patients struggling with chronic pain, addictions, and mental health issues, said director of insured health and hearing services Paul Gudaitis.

It will be staffed by a physician, a mental health worker and an addictions counsellor, he said.

Right now, Gudaitis is not sure where the clinic will be located.

“But we want it to be accessible, so the individuals who require care can get care,” he said.

However, the clinic will only be open three days a week, according to the government release.

“That is what’s achievable,” said Gudaitis, when asked about the limited hours.

“We are putting a solution out there that will work.”

For years, the Whitehorse hospital’s emergency room has been servicing “regulars”- many are chronic alcoholics with no place to call home.

Now, with fewer doctors in the territory – after many moved away after being denied permanent licences – the emergency room is seeing an even greater influx of patients with complex needs, according to the release.

“Many of these clients could be redirected to the community clinic for more comprehensive and sustaining care than can be achieved in a brief encounter in the ER,” said Whitehorse physician Ken Quong, in the release.

Health and Social Services is working with physicians to obtain clinic space, reception and examination rooms. “We know that we need to look outside the box to find new options for providing health care for all of our citizens, no matter what their needs,” said Health Minister Glenn Hart, in the release. “We believe that working with the local medical community may be the answer.”

The deadline for proposals has been set for August 5. The clinic could open as early as September.