Pauline Frost, minister of health and social services, speaks to media during a press conference in Whitehorse on March 20. In an interview May 14, Frost said the 204-page Putting People First report presented a “bold approach” to “retool the vision” of health and social services and programs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Frost accepts HSS review report, but “too early” to decide on recommendations

Staff now doing analyses on recommendations, possible implementation, minister says

The Yukon’s minister of health and social services says she’s accepted a report outlining issues with the territory’s healthcare system, but it’s “a little too early” to say which of its 76 recommendations the government will adopt.

In an interview May 14, Pauline Frost said the 204-page Putting People First report presented a “bold approach” to “retool the vision” of health and social services and programs.

“I’m really quite pleased with what I have before me and the extensiveness and the thoroughness of the report,” she said.

The report, given to the Yukon government April 30 and made public May 13, is the result of approximately a year-and-a-half-long system review by a five-member independent panel.

The panel found the Yukon’s system was too reactive to illness and not proactive enough in preventing it, one where people and divisions were too often working in silos with the needs of government prioritized over those of communities and patients.

The report contains 76 recommendations ranging from revamping the territory’s pharmaceutical and medical travel systems to introducing a guaranteed annual income pilot, all aimed at improving experiences for patients and healthcare providers as well as better managing costs.

Frost acknowledged that the Yukon’s health and social services and programs are a “complex system of responsibilities,” and that “the healthcare system is very fractured in the sense that we work in many silos.”

“I’ve asked the team to have a really close look and provide some recommendations back, their analysis and the costs associated with the recommendations and from there we will review and provide summary on the implementation phase of this plan,” she said.

That work is expected to take place over the next few weeks.

“The last thing I want is to, you know, accept the report and then shelve it,” Frost said. “I mean, that’s not the objective … Now it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and get the work done, look at the recommendations that are possible now and then look at implementing some long-term initiatives around the other recommendations that will take significant time.”

In a briefing with media following the public release of the report, panel chair Bruce McLennan said he thought about 30 to 40 per cent of the recommendations could be put into effect “fairly quickly,” such as putting more nurse practitioners into larger communities and doubling the daily medical travel allowance from $75 to $150 to keep it in line with inflation.

McLennan estimated that a full implementation of all the recommendations, one of which would require adopting a new healthcare model altogether, would take about two to three years.

Frost said she couldn’t answer, at this point, whether she thought a three-year timeline was feasible, but noted the Yukon government was already doing work on several topics touched upon in the report, like aging-in-place strategies, land-based initiatives and housing issues.

A whole-system change requires “a lot of analysis,” she added, and “a lot of input” from “our partners.”

“I want to make sure that we move in lockstep and that we don’t, you know, do things so boldly as to leave people behind,” Frost said.

Both the Yukon Party and Yukon NDP lauded the report, with interim leader Stacey Hassard and leader Kate White, respectively, saying it highlighted issues they’ve long been raising.

The legislative assembly, Hassard noted, passed a motion asking the government to do a review of medical travel two years ago; the report recommended the daily allowance be doubled from $75 to $150, and that it be indexed to inflation in the future.

“In the meantime, the premier’s found money to give himself a raise and increase his own travel reimbursement rates, so why couldn’t the government have done that for medical travel?” Hassard asked.

He also questioned the government’s ability to follow through with the recommendations, or if they would just lead to more bureaucracy.

“It reminds me of those Russian nesting dolls, when each time you open up the doll, there’s another doll — well, now we have these reviews and every time we open up the review or see what that review says, it’s says that we’re going to have another review, so, it’s kind of frustrating, you know?” Hassard said. “It’s not helping Yukoners get the help that they need.”

White, meanwhile, said she was “blown away” by the report because it’s “a roadmap for the future of what health care should look like in Yukon,” and the recommendations cover a “bunch of programs and concepts that Yukon NDP has been championing for years,” like pharmacare and universal dental care.

“(The report) doesn’t just talk about dealing with someone once they’re sick, it talks about, like, addressing the issues that get them there, so it talks a lot about poverty and racism and to me that was … really a remarkable thing because it didn’t shy away from like those kind of harder conversations,” she said.

White encouraged community members to read the report and begin championing some of the “really remarkable things that have been recommended.”

“Partially, it’s going to be jobs for me and the opposition, but also, it’s going to be the job of citizens to hold the government to account,” she said.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Yukon health and social services

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