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Yukon government commits to numerous health care system changes

Changes to include doubling the medical travel benefit and introducing universal childcare
Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost during a press conference in Whitehorse on March 20. Frost announced during a media briefing on Aug. 13, that the Yukon government plans to reform the territorial health care system and implement all 76 changes recommended in the Putting People First report released in May. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

The Yukon government said it plans to reform the territorial health care system and implement all 76 changes recommended in a recent review.

Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost made the announcement at a media briefing on Aug. 13.

The Putting People First report, released in May, called for “major, system-level changes” to improve the health care system. It found that the Yukon government spends about $8,000 per person on health care, higher than the national average.

The five-member independent expert panel who developed the recommendations was chaired by Bruce McLennan, a former deputy minister for the Yukon’s departments of finance, health and social services, and education.

Frost endorsed the report as an “exciting and bold approach” to healthcare reform, and said the government intends to follow all 76 of the recommendations.

“Implementing this vision will require many partnerships and a lot of hard work. And it will take us some time,” she said.

Among the many recommendations in the report, Frost listed a number of immediate priorities being addressed, including aging in place initiatives, making universal affordable childcare available, doubling the medical travel benefit, offering a shingles vaccine for seniors and implementing new cultural training.

The government also plans to look at broader issues in the system, including inequities and a new focus on better preventative care.

“Yukoners deserve a more person-centric system that works for them and listens and adapts to their needs. These are not easy, simple things to change, but we are committed to making them because it is the right thing to do,” Frost said.

Frost said the government will work with First Nations governments, municipalities, NGOs and health and social professionals on the changes.

One of the key recommendations in the report was establishing an arms-length government agency called “Wellness Yukon” that would deliver health and social services.

In addition, the report also calls for every Yukoner to be connected with a doctor or nurse practitioner, increased engagement with First Nations and a phase-out of private clinics.

Frost said while the government is “fully committed” to the changes, not all of them will happen in the next six months. Initially, the government will be focusing on changes that can be implemented quickly.

She cautioned that the changes may not result in “immediate savings” but over time, will reduce spending as the territory focuses on long-term health.

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