Medical association president bites back

A registry of Yukoners without a family doctor is useless without a plan to connect those people with doctors, according to the president of the Yukon Medical Association.

A registry of Yukoners without a family doctor is useless without a plan to connect those people with doctors, according to the president of the Yukon Medical Association.

“You’ve gathered up the numbers, but what are you doing with it?” asked Dr. Rao Tadepalli.

Health Minister Doug Graham recently announced in a letter to the News that 1,830 Yukoners signed up for the government’s doctorless patient registry.

The letter also criticized the Yukon Medical Association for its proposal to give financial incentives to doctors who take on new patients.

Tadepalli said he was surprised and disappointed at Graham’s reaction.

The association wanted to start a conversation about how to help the 1,830 people on the list, but the government wouldn’t even come to the table, said Tadepalli.

“The government was not interested in talking about it at all. We had no response, no negotiation, no further talk.”

The registry was never intended as a means to match patients with doctors, wrote Graham.

It was simply an exercise in information gathering, explained a spokesperson for the department in an email.

“The information from the registry will be used by the department in addressing the healthcare system’s human resource needs including informing physician recruitment, collaborative and integrated care model delivery options, and increased use of expanded scope nurses and other health care providers.”

In addition, the registration form for the registry made it clear that patients would not necessarily be matched with doctors.

The cost for the registry web site, design, advertising, printing and distribution of registration forms was about $7,550, according to the email.

Graham’s letter indicated that the government is not interested in paying doctors to take on orphan patients, and noted that general practitioners in Whitehorse make an average of $317,000 a year.

Tadepalli does not dispute that doctors are well paid, he said.

But Graham has misrepresented the facts by not telling the whole story, he added.

“The minister had left out quite a bit in his ignorant approach, which was ill-advised, probably as a result of a momentary lapse of judgement.”

Doctors are more like private businesses than employees, and their revenue must cover costs such as office rent, staffing and equipment before they take anything home.

Tadepalli also took offence to Graham’s remark that these are the salaries for general practitioners and not specialists.

General practitioners here in the Yukon do a lot more than they might in a larger city down south, and many of them have areas of specialization, he said.

“These GPs work very hard for their patients. They’ve dedicated their life, their hours, their family life and work very hard in their jobs. It means a lot to them. To suggest that these doctors are somehow not that well trained or experienced is disrespectful.”

Tadepalli has announced that he will not seek another term as president of the Yukon Medical Association.

He has held the job for nearly nine years, and said he felt it was time for someone else to take it on.

Elections for a new president have been scheduled for this Friday.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com