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Hope could be in sight for stranded patients

Earlier this month Tamara Horsey got some bad news. Her doctor plans to leave the territory. As of August 15, she will have no doctor.

Earlier this month Tamara Horsey got some bad news. Her doctor plans to leave the territory. As of August 15, she will have no doctor.

She has been told that none of the other doctors at Whitehorse Medical Services, where she is a client, will take her or any of the other stranded patients on.

Currently, no clinics in the territory are recruiting for new patients.

Horsey worries about where she will go for routine and preventative care after the summer, she said.

“The ER is already swamped with problems ... and now they’re going to get even more swamped with people with sniffles or little tummy aches, because there’s nowhere else for us to go.”

The Yukon News reported last week that the emergency room at Whitehorse General Hospital continues to deal with a significant number of highly intoxicated individuals who can’t get the care they need elsewhere.

“It’s a really terrifying situation to have,” said Horsey. “Basically you’re only going to be seen if you have a serious emergency, and by then it could be too late. Like with breast cancer or something, somebody gets so sick and they go in, ‘Oh, you have breast cancer, but we didn’t find it soon enough and now you’re hooped.’”

Horsey was a patient of Dr. Bruce Todd, who retired last year, for all of her life.

His practice was taken over by Dr. Shauna Tierney, who was new to the territory and signed on for a term.

Dr. Tierney has decided to move on after the completion of her term for personal reasons.

“It’s a really frustrating situation,” said Horsey. “There’s no blame to be laid, because I can’t really say that it’s anybody’s fault.”

But there could be hope for Horsey and the other stranded patients.

By all accounts the doctor shortage has eased over the past year.

As of July 2013, 1,500 Yukoners had signed up for a doctorless patient registry with the Yukon government.

“Doctors put a big dent in the 1,500 patients on the Yukon government registry since January 2014,” wrote Dr. Ken Quong, president of the Yukon Medical Association, in a recent email. “Two new doctors alone have taken on over 600 of those patients. They have paused in their uptake to get the current patients sorted out before opening up again.”

And although no clinics are advertising openings, some people continue to be signed up with doctors, he said.

“There are doctors accepting new patients every day into their practices,” wrote Quong. “For example when new mothers give birth, the families are most often taken on into practices. Every day, patients are taken on for follow-up from the emergency room.”

And new doctors are expected, he said. The Klondyke Medical Clinic, where he works, is on track to have three doctors accepting new patients in the late summer.

“There will always be doctors leaving the territory and doctors retiring,” wrote Quong. “The YMA continues to successfully recruit new doctors.”

The Yukon government employs a physician recruitment and retention officer, who also works to bring new doctors to the Yukon.

According to the YukonMD website, Whitehorse Medical Services, Taiga Medical Clinic, Pine Medical Clinic, the Yukon Women’s Clinic and Watson Lake’s Parhelion Medical Clinic are all currently recruiting for new doctors.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at