Psychiatrist returns to Whitehorse General Hospital

After almost a year without one, a psychiatrist has been brought back to the Whitehorse General Hospital.

After almost a year without one, a psychiatrist has been brought back to the Whitehorse General Hospital.

The new deal, which started Monday, means there will now be a psychiatrist working at the hospital for set hours every weekday.

That’s a change from the unpredictable hours, schedule, and workload that led psychiatrists to stop serving the hospital last summer, said chief of staff Dr. Warren MacNicol.

“What it now does is, regardless of how many people are here, whether there’s no people in the hospital or there’s a bunch of people in the hospital, a psychiatrist is going to be available for four hours a day minimum to manage those patients’ care.”

Canadian Psychiatric Association standards say there should be between four or five psychiatrists in the Yukon to serve its population size.

Currently there are two full-time general psychiatrists in the territory. No new psychiatrist has been hired for the job at the hospital. Instead, Dr. Armando Heredia has agreed to take it on, on top of the work he already does.

Both Yukon psychiatrists have their own private practices and accept contracts with the health or justice departments, for example.

Under the old model, a psychiatrist worked for the hospital on an on-call basis and came in when needed. If a hospital patient needed a sudden high-level of care, the psychiatrist would have to cancel appointments at their own office and go to the hospital.

That kind of change, for patients who were expecting an appointment, is not good, MacNicol said.

One of the psychiatrists decided she couldn’t do hospital care because it was too disruptive to her patients, he said.

In July, Heredia also walked away. “And for similar reasons, it was so disruptive to his professional and personal life, and the demands were so great,” MacNicol said.

Without a psychiatrist, other hospital doctors took on the responsibility to prescribe medication and care for psychiatric patients at the hospital. If necessary, they could call an Outside doctor to get help over the phone.

With this new plan, Heredia will be in the hospital from 8 a.m. to noon. His primary focus will be on patients who are being involuntarily committed. That means they have been forced to stay at the hospital against their will because they are considered a risk to themselves or others, MacNicol said.

MacNicol is hopeful the set hours will mean more time for other types of care on days when there are fewer urgent cases.

Previously, voluntary admissions – people who choose to stay at the hospital to get help -“weren’t getting the consultant care that they should have got because there just wasn’t time for the psychiatrist to do that,” he said.

Last year the Yukon Medical Association called for more psychiatrists in the territory. President Alison Freeman said she’s pleased the hospital has found a solution, but points out that doesn’t change the need for more psychiatrists in the community.

“It’s a good step forward, but we still could use more psychiatrists for sure.”

MacNicol said he hopes this more predictable model will attract more psychiatrists to come work in the territory.

The hospital will be monitoring things closely to make sure the plan is working for everyone involved and tweak things if need be, he said.

“When I came on as chief of staff it became very evident that this was one of the major problem areas in the hospital. And not only in the hospital, to my way of thinking it is the major gap in care in the whole territory.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An avalanche warning sigh along the South Klondike Highway. Local avalanche safety instructors say interest in courses has risen during the pandemic as more Yukoners explore socially distanced outdoor activities. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)
Backcountry busy: COVID-19 has Yukoners heading for the hills

Stable conditions for avalanches have provided a grace period for backcountry newcomers

Several people enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Coast High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 26. The Yukon government announced on Jan. 25 that residents of Whitehorse, Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne areas 65 and older can now receive their vaccines. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Vaccine appointments available in Whitehorse for residents 65+

Yukoners 65 and older living in Whitehorse are now eligible to receive… Continue reading

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read