New deal with doctors looks good for patients

A new collective bargaining agreement has been signed between the Yukon government and its doctors. The changes in the deal will benefit patients…

A new collective bargaining agreement has been signed between the Yukon government and its doctors.

The changes in the deal will benefit patients most, said Yukon Medical Association president Rao Tadepalli.

“Patients will benefit in a variety of ways,” he said yesterday while en route to Montreal for the Canadian Medical Association’s annual general meeting.

 “It can help doctors to provide a broad spectrum of care to their patients.”

One of the new initiatives that Tadepalli gave as an example was the doctor-of-the-day program at Whitehorse General Hospital.

In the past, if a patient’s family doctor was away, or if they didn’t have one at all, they would need to go to the hospital, where the emergency room doctor would take on the responsibility.

However, this could be difficult if the emergency room doctor was particularly busy and had their own clinic full of patients to care for.

The doctor-of-the-day program will provide additional assistance for these “orphaned” patients.

Other doctors will now make their time available to care for the doctor-less patients and the new deal will see them compensated accordingly.

The previous agreement expired on March 31 and negotiations on the new one began in June.

The new agreement includes a three per cent fee increase for each year of the agreement.

There will also be an increase in Emergency Room and obstetrical care support.

And maternal/paternal benefits will now be modeled after similar programs Outside.

The new agreement is worth $8.9 million and, kicking in retroactively, will last from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2012.

The negotiations were all “very challenging,” said Tadepalli.

“But we formed a partnership with YTG and we worked around issues to improve patient care,” he said.

“They came up with ideas; we came up with ideas and I think ultimately we have a good contract out.”

But the greatest way to improve patient care, and perhaps the most difficult, would be to lure more doctors to the North.

The Yukon is suffering from the Canada-wide shortage in medical professionals.

Whitehorse General Hospital still lacks a pediatrician.

To address this issue, the agreement included a graduate-support program in hopes of encouraging new young doctors to come to the Yukon.

To have a good health-care system you need to have a good partnership between government and doctors, said Tadepalli.

The real test, to prove whether or not the agreement was successful, will be in four years’ time.

“That’s when we’ll see if we’ve kept the physicians that are currently here and have we been able to attract any additional physicians,” he said.

“I expect that this agreement will be able to do this — I’m hopeful and positive.”

Contact Chris Oke at chriso@yukon-news.com