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Liberals promise $5 million for ‘collaborative’ health care

The Yukon Liberal Party wants to open a new “collaborative primary health-care facility,” a kind of one-stop medical shop, for about $5…

The Yukon Liberal Party wants to open a new “collaborative primary health-care facility,” a kind of one-stop medical shop, for about $5 million a year.

It would be both a walk-in and an appointment-based facility — a place for non-emergency patients to go.

“It tends to a be a place where people can come in and access the care they need, including physicians,” said Mount Lorne Liberal candidate Colleen Wirth, drawing on her 30 years of experience as a registered nurse.

“They also may need to see a dietician; they may need to see a pharmacist,” Wirth said Thursday.

“It’s under one roof.”

Currently, the only place for Whitehorse patients to go is the Whitehorse General Hospital emergency room, she said.

“Facilities such as this will save us money by decreasing non-emergency visits at the emergency department at the hospital and save us money over the long term by preventing some health problems from occurring.”

The Liberal Party isn’t talking about building a new facility. Instead, it plans to lease a building somewhere in Whitehorse, equip it and staff it with two full-time health-care professionals, with other health care professionals rotating through on a weekly schedule.

A Liberal government would open such a clinic in two years.

“The … facility will provide one option for increasing access to health care,” said Wirth, who worked at Whitehorse General Hospital from 1992 to 1998.

“The cost for the facility will depend on what the locally developed model ends up looking like.”

The collaborative primary health-care approach has been successful in other jurisdictions across Canada, she said.

“The facility would operate entirely within the public health-care system.

“This model is being used in other jurisdictions and has shown benefits for patients and for caregivers.

“Patients receive prompt care and professionals have the opportunity to work in a more holistic environment.”

Before it could be set up, the government would consult private-sector pharmacy businesses, like Shoppers Drug Mart, that already provide medication to the Whitehorse community, and mental-health professionals who lack space for patients, said Wirth.

The Liberals also want to skim one per cent of the annual health-services budget that’s typically worth about $90 million, and put it into a “health-promotion fund” that would “promote increased physical activity and healthy living for Yukoners of all ages.”

“Groups would be able to apply for money under the health-promotion fund for increasing activities, for example recreation programs in communities,” said Wirth.

“Other places have taken six months to target decreased smoking and public education around the effects of tobacco.

“They may want to take a particular point in time to talk about healthy eating, and what does that mean.”

However, the Liberal plan does not directly address the problem of recruiting medical health professionals to work and live in the Yukon.

“The shortage of health professionals has accumulated over time, so we’re not going to be able to do a quick fix,” said Wirth.

“We’ve got people here right now who are interested in moving into this option and working in a different type of practice setting.

“If we can somehow look at the capacity that we have we can see who’s out there.

“I’m told that we also have some nurses who are interested in coming to work in the Yukon right now, but we don’t have full-time positions for them.”

The Yukon Party borrowed a Grit idea when it addressed the recruitment and retention problems in August with a $200,000 fund to pay down debt loads of new doctors — an idea Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell floated in the legislature in December 2005.

The Yukon Party also vowed to re-open the Thomson Centre — which has been closed since 2002 because of mould contamination — early in 2007.

The 44 beds of the Thomson Centre would be used for continuing-care patients.

The Liberals would also open the Thomson Centre to continuing care, said Wirth.

Furthermore, the debt-repayment strategy might be an effective recruitment-retention tool, she said.

“It’s too soon to know the results of that.

“The reality is, we have an increasing number of Yukoners who do not have a physician.

“We’re in a crisis nationally, not just here.

“We need to look at a number of creative solutions, not just one.”