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Health minister touts collaborative care

The government and the Yukon Hospital Corporation need to work together better in order to get the territory's health care professionals working better together.

The government and the Yukon Hospital Corporation need to work together better in order to get the territory’s health care professionals working better together.

That’s the word from Health Minister Doug Graham, commenting on the health-care needs assessment report that was tabled in the legislature last month.

“The most important thing is probably the collaborative care. Collaborative care means not only within the hospital but it means collaboration between the hospital and Health and Social Services to deliver a whole range of services in those communities that will provide additional service to the community,” Graham said.

The biggest challenge, he says, is getting the hospital corp.‘s medical advisory committee to give nurse practitioners more freedom to exercise their power and expertise.

“One of the big challenges that we’ve found to date, the nurse practitioner model ... hasn’t been, shall we say, universally accepted by the medical community here in Whitehorse,” Graham said.

“We’ve had some difficulties with the medical advisory committee at the hospital corp. which is not providing nurse practitioners with the necessary abilities that we think they should have, such as ordering tests for their patients, to admit patients and to see people on the hospital on their own,” the minister said.

Jason Bilksy, the CEO of the hospital corp. did not return a call for comment by press time.

The needs assessment report, released at the end of 2013’s fall legislature sitting, took a qualitative look at the health care needs in Watson Lake and Dawson City. Had it been done before the government built two new expensive hospitals in the communities, it would have shown clearly that those hospitals were not the best fix.

What was needed is the collaborative care model that Graham now says is so important. If fact it is one of most important steps to addressing the crippling substance abuse and mental health issues plaguing Watson Lake and many Yukon communities.

“I don’t think there were any real surprises that were huge surprises to me in the report,” Graham said.

“You kind of suspect after a while what the logical things were that were needed in those communities, what people believe are needed in those communities,” Graham said.

The new hospitals were not designed to address those most pressing needs, the report says, but now that they’re built, Graham said the most important thing is making sure Yukoners get the most out of the new buildings.

“Everything from using acute-care beds for palliative care or when they’re empty using them for possibly long term care. Those are the kinds of things we will discuss with the hospitals and we’ll hammer out an agreement fairly quickly, I think,” he said.

Along with collaborative care, the report also recommended increased treatment and aftercare services for Watson Lake and Dawson City.

Graham said improvements to programming at the new Sarah Steele detox facility and the planned new Salvation Army building in Whitehorse help address that need.

“As far as actually providing facilities in some of those communities, I don’t see it as something that’s going to happen in the near future because it’ll just be too expensive to set up separate facilities. What we have to do is provide that post-treatment care with a number of our health-care and social services workers.”

The two new hospitals cost a combined $54.8 million. They were finished a year behind schedule and nearly $8 million over budget.

Contact Jesse Winter at