Skeleton ambulance service frightens Dawson City and Watson Lake

A loud explosion, caused by gunpowder placed in an open fire, ripped through Dawson City’s steamboat graveyard on Saturday night injuring three…

A loud explosion, caused by gunpowder placed in an open fire, ripped through Dawson City’s steamboat graveyard on Saturday night injuring three people.

Two were later medevaced Outside with serious, but not life-threatening, injuries.

Although the town’s nurses and attendant dealt with the three injuries, “it probably would have been more efficient with the volunteer ambulance in service,” said Dawson mayor John Steins.

The town’s 12 ambulance attendants walked off the job last Thursday, leaving the government scrambling.

Yukon’s Health department sent one paid nurse/attendant from Whitehorse to cover the service.

 “Luckily, as fate would have it, there were medical people camping at the campground — a doctor attended right away.

“And other adults who know how to manage teens were able to keep everyone in order until the ambulance crossed the river.”

The incident does highlight the need for the government to come to a solution with volunteer ambulance attendants in the community.

“I think it’s time to stop relying on volunteers when it comes to essential services like ambulance,” said Steins.

“And I think it’s time for the government to pony up and pay at least one position as a co-ordinator for the ambulance, if not more.

“The demand far outstrips what the volunteer group is able to provide and I think most of the town backs that position.”

With 800 to 900 additional people expected in Dawson City for this weekend’s music festival, organizers say they need extra ambulance attendants sent to the town as well.

“We just sent off a bunch of letters to (Premier) Dennis Fentie and (Health Minister) Brad Cathers and to (Klondike MLA) Steve Nordick expressing our concern,” said festival producer Dylan Griffith.

“YTG is aware that we need to have people here this weekend and there will be additional support.”

Dawson ambulance supervisor Margie Baikie was unable to comment.

Meanwhile, volunteers in Watson Lake have asked the government to concede to a few demands and get the volunteers back to work while a long-term deal is brokered, said supervisor Pauline Lund on Tuesday.

They’re asking for two hours of pay for every eight hours they spend on-call.

“We’re willing to take our radios back and do that until the negotiating team can meet with the government to come up with a long-term plan,” said Lund.

The temporary agreement was brought to government on Friday.

The government has yet to respond.

The town is still running with one attendant from Whitehorse covering the calls, but that’s not enough, said Lund.

“We’ve been very fortunate that the last few weeks have been quiet,” she said.

“The reason this is all happening is that the government has forced us into it — now we’re hoping that that government will deal in good faith.”

A meeting between negotiators for the volunteers and the government is slated for Thursday.

Cathers refused to be interviewed.

He directed all questions to interim Health spokesperson Dennis Senger.

The government will send one more ambulance attendant to Dawson from Whitehorse to provide coverage during the music festival, said Senger on Tuesday.

He could not say where negotiations stood between the volunteers in Dawson and Watson and Yukon government reps.