Haines Junction sees gaps in ambulance service

The Haines Junction volunteer ambulance service needs some help. In July of this year, only two shifts had full coverage, and two-thirds of the shifts had no coverage at all.

The Haines Junction volunteer ambulance service needs some help.

In July of this year, only two shifts had full coverage, and two-thirds of the shifts had no coverage at all.

That left residents depending on service from Whitehorse in the event of an emergency.

“When we don’t have coverage in Haines Junction, they serve us out of Whitehorse, either by air or by ground, and that has a significant difference potentially for patient outcome,” said Dave Weir, a member of the volunteer EMS service.

“It also puts the nurses in a bit of a position, because they get the call, they know what’s going on but they don’t have a way to transport patients and to help the patients get the care they need.”

Getting shifts covered has been an issue for three or four years, especially on weekends and in the summer, said Weir.

This year the problem is creeping into the fall, too, he said.

Fifteen Yukon communities have a volunteer EMS force.

They attend regular meetings and training on a volunteer basis. Available training includes emergency medical responder and driving courses, among others.

Twelve-hour shifts are paid $3.50 an hour for being on call, said Weir.

If there is a call out, that jumps to between $20 and $29 per hour, depending on training level.

Payment is not the issue in Haines Junction, and neither is the size of the pool of volunteers, said Weir.

“As a crew, we pondered the idea of, ‘Would increasing the on-call pay or the call-out pay help?’ We’ve come to a conclusion as a crew that that really isn’t it. We don’t want more money. That has got nothing to do with it.

“So far, a lot of what we’ve heard from YG has been, ‘You need to find more volunteers. You need to find more volunteers.’ To me that’s an answer that’s indicative of the fact that I don’t think they understand the problem. We actually have the largest volunteer base in the Yukon. We have 14 people on our crew.”

The heart of the issue, he said, is that the way the system is set up makes it difficult for volunteers to juggle their EMS work with other responsibilities, he said.

Shifts last 12 hours, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. or vice versa.

But if there’s a call at the end of the shift, you could end up on duty for another seven hours, said Weir.

“If you get a call at 7:45 in the morning, you could be gone till three in the afternoon.”

That’s tough to commit to if you have a job, a family and other responsibilities, he said.

And with about 130 calls in Haines Junction per year, if you sign up for a shift, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be busy.

Only conversation and creative solutions will solve the issue, said Weir.

“The solution is essentially going to come from getting the stakeholders to sit around the kitchen table and hammer through some ideas and figure out what’s going to work for different stakeholders.”

That meeting should include Community Services, Health and Social Services, the Village of Haines Junction, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, the nurses and the EMS volunteers, he said.

The trick will be to establish common goals and hammer out some ideas, said Weir.

“Can we use some of the graduates from the Yukon College primary care paramedic program over the summers in Haines Junction, to help them gain some experience? Could we create a full-time EMR position in Haines Junction that also helps nurses out, because I know they’re overworked as well? These are the kinds of things we need to brainstorm, and see what is going to work for the different stakeholders.”

Community Services Minister Brad Cathers said in an interview this week that the department is open to talk about what a solution might look like.

“We have reiterated through the supervisor for the area that we’re committed to having staff talk to them about what next steps should be to improve the coverage situation in Haines Junction.”

Steps were taken earlier this year to recruit more volunteers and make more radios available, he said.

“We recognize that the steps that were taken by department staff in 2014 in an attempt to reduce gaps in coverage in Haines Junction haven’t worked as well as we had hoped.”

But it’s unlikely that the Haines Junction crew will be offered support that cannot be made available to all of the volunteer EMS crews across the Yukon.

“While we recognize the specific challenges in Haines Junction and need to come up with a solution that works for them, we also have to have a solution that’s mindful of and consistent with the types of solutions we consider for other rural EMS areas because that fairness and consistency is something that needs to be kept in mind,” said Cathers.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Wyatt's World for Oct. 28, 2020.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 28.… Continue reading

Yukon Child Care Board chair Amy Ryder says the board could be playing a bigger role in childcare policy making if they had more financial support from the Yukon government. (Submitted)
Yukon Child Care Board asks for larger role in annual report

The board is asking for a larger budget to increase outreach and advice

Yukon’s clocks will no longer change in March and November but will remain permanently on Pacific Daylight Saving Time. (Courtesy Yukon government)
Off the clock: Yukon prepares to end seasonal time changes

Starting on Nov. 1 Yukon will be one hour ahead of Vancouver and two hours ahead of Alaska

Dawson City as scene from West Dawson. Art Webster, the vice-chair of the Dawson Regional Planning Commission resigned last month over the Yukon governments unwillingness to pause speculative staking. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Vice-chair resigns from Dawson land-use planning commission

NDP warns that not pausing mining activity is the road to a second Peel decision

The opening ceremonies of the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg on July 28, 2017. The 2021 Canada Summer Games have officially been rescheduled for Aug. 6 to 21, 2022, exactly one year from the date the national competition was originally set to take place in the Niagara region of Ontario. (Canada Summer Games/Flickr)
Canada Summer Games dates set for 2022 but uncertainty remains for Yukon athletes

Yukon athletes continue waiting to get back into schools

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council passed first reading on a bylaw for the designation change at its Oct. 26 meeting, prompting an upcoming public hearing on Nov. 23 ahead of second reading on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Local contractors will be given an advantage on a contract for the design and construction services that will see a new reception building at Robert Service Campground decided city councillors during the Oct. 26 council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local firms will get advantage on contract for new Robert Service Campground building

Yukon-based companies competing for contract for new reception building will receive 20 extra points

Fallen trees due to strong winds are seen leaning on to power lines which caused some power outages around the territory on Oct. 26. (Courtesy of ATCO)
Wind knocks out power around the Yukon

High winds on Oct. 26 knocked out power to Faro, parts of Whitehorse and beyond

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging the reduction of its caribou quota to zero. (Yukon News file)
YG replies to outfitter’s legal challenge over caribou quota

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging… Continue reading

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.” (Black Press file)
Get flu vaccine, Yukon government urges

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read