The store front of Whitehorse Osteopathy just off Fourth Avenue on April 30. Tana Shepherd, an osteopath at the practice, is seeking a seat on the Business Advisory Council along with other health-care practitioners to have her profession better represented during the COVID-19 shutdown. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Health-care practitioner group wants a seat on Business Advisory Council

Group’s chair says representation lacking

A group of health-care practitioners, who was ordered to temporarily close due to the pandemic, are seeking a seat on the Business Advisory Council in order to be better represented.

Tana Shepherd, an osteopathic manual practitioner in Whitehorse and chair of Yukon Allied Healthcare Practitioners, spoke with the News on April 30 about the group’s concerns.

The group is comprised of massage therapists, naturopathic doctors, osteopaths, somatic therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, athletic therapists, and physiotherapists.

The concerns stem from an order that came into effect on March 25 that forced all “personal service establishments” in the Yukon to close as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shepherd’s practice at Whitehorse Osteopathy was affected.

“It’s just that the nature of our practices doesn’t allow for the physical distancing required,” she said.

She feels that public health services such as hers may have been improperly categorized as a personal service, adding it stems from a misunderstanding of the critical nature of her services for mental, emotional and physical health.

The territory established the Business Advisory Council in March to help represent the needs to of the business community and address the pandemic from an economic perspective.

She explained that as a lot of practitioners like her are not part of a regulative body in the Yukon, the group contacted the chair of the council on April 10, requesting a seat at the table.

They voiced their concerns, and Shepherd has a meeting with Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai’s office on May 1 to go over these concerns.

She said the closure order has left a gap in critical health care.

“What we would like is a seat at the table that accurately represents the nature of our professions,” Shepherd said.

She said there already is a personal services representative, but this does not properly represent their interests. She explained businesses like hers do not have the same interests as a tattoo parlour or a nail salon, which is what they are compared to.

“We are health care, we are not a personal service,” Shepherd said.

The group has been in touch with the government and learned that chiropractors and physiotherapists are allowed to stay open, but only to provide emergency care.

Shepherd said this creates more confusion, as the criteria around what qualifies as urgent care is unclear and it is also unclear what criteria a practitioner must meet to provide urgent care. She said she is unaware of what the physical distancing and sanitization protocols are for physiotherapists and chiropractors to follow when providing urgent care.

She said this confusion stems from the miscategorization of the group’s members and is all the more reason to be represented directly.

Shepherd said the group is not advocating for a return to practice as usual and the group understands that is not in the best interest of public heath. Shepherd does argue there needs to be practice-specific guidelines in place to protect practitioners and patients for when they can reopen.

While her office is closed, she has been meeting with patients through Yukon Telehealth. She said this can only go so far as it is difficult to care for someone without being present in the same room to do a proper exam.

Caring for patients in this way brings challenges. She cannot treat anyone she has no experience with, as it would be difficult to narrow down medical issues. Her conversations with patients centre on pain, the location and she provides suggested treatments. She said she has no choice but to rely on the subjective statements of the patients rather than her educated observations.

She explained that pain resulting from recent or long-term injuries doesn’t stop during a pandemic.

“Chronic care doesn’t go away,” Shepherd said.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

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