Watson Lake dentist gets no Outside perks

The Department of Health didn't mean to pull Watson Lake's dental funding. "It was just a poorly worded letter," said Health spokesperson Patricia Living. The letter she's referring to was sent to Dr. Pearson.

The Department of Health didn’t mean to pull Watson Lake’s dental funding.

“It was just a poorly worded letter,” said Health spokesperson Patricia Living.

The letter she’s referring to was sent to Dr. Pearson – a Whitehorse dentist who has been caring for Watson Lake’s pearly whites for more than 30 years.

Written by community health programs director Cathy Stannard and dated March 7, it stated:

“In the past, the department (of Health) … helped offset the cost of travel to rural communities for the provision of adult care when no resident dentist was present.

“The funding for this service will be coming to an end March 31, 2011.”

Pearson is the only local dentist in the territory still travelling to a community to fill cavities.

The Yukon’s other communities are serviced by four Outside dentists – three from Quebec and one from the US.

It costs the territory $80,000 a year to fly the dentists and their assistants north.

Each dentist team visits their respective community twice a year, for 10 days each time.

It costs the territory about $1,000 a day, per dentist.

And the dentists are only seeing an average of three to six patients daily.

Pearson sees up to 16 patients a day at a quarter the cost, he said.

And he could have seen a lot more.

But the Yukon government only pays for two Watson Lake visits a year – only one of them with his hygienist.

“I was advocating for four visits a year,” said Pearson, who is swamped every time he arrives in the community.

It’s “MASH dentistry,” he said in a past interview with the News.

Losing money on these visits, with unpaid driving days for himself and his assistant, Pearson asked the government to cover his Watson Lake clinic costs, including heat, phone and power.

That’s when he got the letter.

Not only was the government not going to cover the clinic costs, it was also going to stop paying his travel expenses.

“They pulled the plug,” he said.

Living insists that wasn’t the letter’s intent – even though it states “all funding will be coming to an end March 31.”

It wasn’t a mistake, said Pearson, who started making plans to close his Watson Lake clinic after getting the letter.

“They are trying to save money so they go and make cuts,” he said.

“And they are cutting services to the public instead of somewhere else.”

If he had concerns about the letter, Pearson could have called us, said Living.

But Stannard’s letter was clear, ending with: “I will be away from my office from March 7 through 22 inclusive. I would be happy to discuss this matter with you upon my return.”

It was “unfortunate” that Stannard was away, added Living.

About a week after the letter arrived, Pearson’s phone rang.

It was Premier Dennis Fentie’s chief of staff Dale Drown.

Pearson services individuals in the premier’s constituency, said Drown.

“So it came to our attention.

“The funding will carry on,” said Drown, on Thursday.

But when Pearson called Drown back, to give a list of his costs, he was directed to Health.

“I have to defer to the (Health) department,” said Drown.

“They have to work it out.”

Under Pearson’s “present contract, he receives mileage, accommodation, per diems (includes meals and incidentals); travel time and set-up time, plus a monthly rental amount for his office,” wrote Living in an email.

But that’s not enough, said Pearson.

He would like to visit Watson Lake four times a year with a hygienist.

Right now, a hygienist is only covered once a year.

“Prevention is a key component of dental care,” said Pearson.

“And the focus should be on prevention,” he said.

“But it doesn’t seem to be.”

Pearson would also like his clinic’s monthly expenses, which come to just over $1,200, covered.

The four Outside dentists don’t pay for their offices in the Yukon communities.

“The itinerant dentists work out of facilities that Health and Social Services own and use for the Yukon Children’s Dental program,” said Living.

But Health doesn’t pay for Pearson’s clinic.

“Dr. Pearson is not working in a YG facility,” said Living.

Health could not commit to paying his clinic costs.

“I can’t speak to that,” said Living.

“All I’m asking is for the same benefits the Outside dentists are getting,” said Pearson.

“I want to keep servicing Watson Lake.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

The Boulevard of Hope was launched by the Yukon T1D Support Network and will be lit up throughout January. It is aimed at raising awareness about Yukoners living with Type 1 diabetes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Boulevard of Hope sheds light on Type 1 diabetes

Organizers hope to make it an annual event

City of Whitehorse city council meeting in Whitehorse on Oct. 5, 2020. An updated council procedures bylaw was proposed at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 18 meeting that would see a few changes to council meetings and how council handles certain matters like civil emergencies. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse procedures bylaw comes forward

New measures proposed for how council could deal with emergencies

A Yukon survey querying transportation between communities has already seen hundreds of participants and is the latest review highlighting the territory’s gap in accessibility. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Multiple reports, survey decry lack of transportation between Yukon communities

A Community Travel survey is the latest in a slew of initiatives pointing to poor accessibility

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

Most Read