Reproductive health clinics open their doors

Two different clinics aimed at reproductive, sexual or menopausal health have started up in Whitehorse. The Yukon Sexual Health Clinic and the Yukon Women's MidLife Health Clinic opened this week.

Two different clinics aimed at reproductive, sexual or menopausal health have started up in Whitehorse.

The Yukon Sexual Health Clinic and the Yukon Women’s MidLife Health Clinic opened this week.

The sexual health clinic is targeted at youth, men of all ages, and women younger than 40.

The mid-life clinic is aimed at women older than 40.

It’s all about access, say the many women involved in making these clinics a reality.

If you don’t have a family doctor, getting access to routine medical care, screening and information around sexual health and menopause can be difficult, they say.

It might mean a trip to a walk-in clinic or even the emergency room.

“Now baby boomers have all reached menopause age. And women are living in menopause or post-menopause for another 40 or 50 years,” said Dr. Xiu-Mei Zhang with the mid-life clinic, run out of the Pine Medical Centre.

“So this is becoming more and more an issue in health care.”

The sexual health clinic will offer things like birth control counselling and low-cost contraceptives, tests for sexually transmitted infections, pap tests, pregnancy testing and options counselling.

It’s also a place for general information on reproductive health. It’s being run out of Whitehorse Medical Clinic.

“It’s difficult to get good numbers on how many people who don’t have family doctors. But certainly a number of doctors have left and not replaced themselves. New people coming to town haven’t been able to find family doctors,” said Dr. Cindy Breitkreutz, who is involved with the sexual health clinic.

“We certainly think that there’s going to be an ongoing need.”

The MidLife Health Clinic offers similar services, but also includes perimenopause and menopause counselling, assessment and management of osteoporosis, anxiety and depression. Along with pap testing, it will also offer endometrial biopsies.

The MidLife Health Clinic is open Mondays and Thursdays for appointments with walk-in hours Thursday evenings.

The Sexual Health Clinic is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays with walk-in hours Tuesday evenings.

The services at both clinics will be delivered primarily by nurse practitioner Michelle Wolsky.

As a nurse practitioner, Wolsky is able to write prescriptions, diagnose and perform tests as well as refer patients to other medical professionals.

If needed, a rotating group of doctors are also available.

Wolsky’s appointments will be 30 minutes long, longer than is sometimes possible when seeing a doctor.

“Perimenopause and menopause health conditions are complicated. It’s very difficult to solve these conditions in 15 minutes of a visit. So we are willing to take more time to really break down people’s condition and really help to manage this,” Zhang said.

Wolsky said nurse practitioners are part of collaborative care – the idea that there should be a team of people available to look after a person’s health.

“We’re nurses first, so we practice from a nursing perspective. So we have the luxury of the time to talk about your mental health, how your kids are doing at school, whether you have housing.

“That whole bit that sometimes you don’t have the luxury of doing in a 15-minute appointment. We just kind of round out your whole health-care experience.”

Wolsky said menopause is more complicated than just not getting your period anymore.

“It’s about your heart health, your bone health, your mental wellness, and all those different pieces,” she said.

Wolsky will see patients with a family doctor, and those who don’t have one.

Zhang said having the clinics open for longer hours with walk-in times is important when it comes to attracting the most people.

“I find lots of newcomers are without a family doctor and working two or three jobs, then they can’t afford to take time to go and see (a doctor for) a routine physical exam.”

Zhang said she is currently seeing two women in the Yukon with advanced gynecological cancers.

“They find lots of immigrants have endometrial cancer or cervical cancer which totally can be preventable. But they don’t have access to full routine exams.”

In 2012, Yukon passed legislation to enable licensing of nurse practitioners to work in the territory. The first nurse was registered in 2013.

There are currently two nurse practitioners working in the territory. A third one will be starting in December, Wolsky said.

“It’s exciting to see this new model of health care get into the public eye,” she said.

“My position is the first one that’s fairly publicly visible. The support has been really overwhelming from the physician community, other health-care professionals and the general public. People are curious.”

The cash for both clinics is coming from a fund designed to pay for collaborative care.

For now, money is only guaranteed for three years.

More information on both clinics can be found on the Yukon Department of Health and Social Services website.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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