Opposition tells government to take risks while patients wait

Liz Hanson and her family may be without a doctor by the end of the summer. The leader of the official opposition won't be the only one. By the end of August, there will be two new doctors in Whitehorse.

Liz Hanson and her family may be without a doctor by the end of the summer. The leader of the official opposition won’t be the only one.

By the end of August, there will be two new doctors in Whitehorse. This is in addition to Chris Naylor and Amy Sawchuk who started at Klondyke Medical Clinic this month.

But more are needed.

In September, Dr. Hanan Farag, Marcorios Medical Clinic’s only doctor, will be leaving the Yukon.

Doctors are hard to find across the territory, not just in Whitehorse.

On July 17, Watson Lake’s only clinic, Parhelion Medical, closed. Dr. Tanis Secerbegovic, the clinic’s physician, did not respond to requests for comment.

Last week, the government started advertising for the Watson Lake position in newspapers across Western Canada and Ontario. They are looking for a physician willing to make a three-to-five-year commitment, said Pat Living, spokesperson for the Department of Health.

The end of a special licensure program has made it harder to find doctors. The program, which allowed foreign doctors to practise in the Yukon for five years before taking a national exam, ended in 2010 when it was not renewed.

Hanson does not know why the program was not renewed. It has been criticized because several doctors who came to the Yukon left after passing their exam.

The government is negotiating with two other jurisdictions in Canada with similar programs, Living said. It hopes to have a new agreement in place by the fall.

Reports of doctors leaving cause Hanson to wonder what is being done to encourage them to stay. It demonstrates how the health care system needs to be restructured around patients’ needs and chronic care treatment, she said.

She often hears from citizens who are without a doctor. She would like the government to create a pilot collaborative care project and spend less money on large projects that address acute care issues.

This week, Premier Darrell Paloski met with other territorial and provincial leaders in Halifax. Hanson wants him to make sure the Yukon sees action from the federal government. While she doesn’t want Ottawa to tell the territory what to do, she thinks some things, like “ensuring that there are national standards” for different health initiatives, can be achieved.

People are open to changes in health care delivery, Hanson said. “The government needs to be a little less timid and take more of a leadership role here.”

For now, patients can only wait.

Marlene Griffiths learned the Parhelion Medical Clinic was closing when she called to make an appointment to have a prescription refilled. The clinic still operates a pharmacy, and Griffiths received the medication. Secebegovic was a good doctor, she said. But one person can’t be expected to care for an entire community.

There are many opinions about why their doctor left, says Griffiths, but she believes another one will come. “People need to be patient and wait it out for a little bit and see what can be done.”

Contact Meagan Gillmore at


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