A person walks in to Klondyke Medical in Whitehorse on Jan. 15. Dr. Lindsay Blair, whose address comes up as this practice online, is leaving the Yukon this summer, dropping the territory’s resident psychiatrists from three to two. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon set to lose one of its resident psychiatrists

The Yukon government says it is working on recruiting two more

At some point this year, likely in the summer, the Yukon could be down to two resident psychiatrists from three.

Dr. Lindsay Blair, who runs a private practice, is to move away from the territory, having given formal notice to the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS).

The News reached out to her office, but a receptionist said that Blair declined to comment.

Blair “has given us fair notice, so we’re out there right now working on recruitment,” said HSS spokesperson Pat Living, noting that the department hopes to bring the number of psychiatrists up to four eventually. “I would like to think that, yes, we would not have a very long period of time with a gap where there wouldn’t coverage.”

Living couldn’t specify when Blair would be leaving, exactly, but said it could be sometime during the summer.

“We are working to recruit two more psychiatrists, who will work in private practice in Whitehorse and who may have contracts with government,” she said.

Drs. Armando Heredia and Leo Elwell are to remain in the Yukon at their private practices, Living said. Elwell, she added, has had intermittent contracts with the Yukon government.

There is one visiting child and youth psychiatrist.

Asked when Yukoners can expect almost a full complement of psychiatrists, she said the department is trying to deliver that “within the year.”

According to the Canadian Psychiatric Association, for the population of the Yukon (roughly 40,000 people) there would be 4.6 psychiatrists.

In an interview this week, Living said this figure continues to be relevant.

Dr. Alex Poole, president of the Yukon Medical Association (YMA), says his organization, the hospital and HSS have agreed to build a psychiatric service that fully covers inpatient and outpatient needs.

Four psychiatrists would ensure someone is always on-hand to cover shifts.

Two young psychiatrists are interested in moving to the Yukon, Poole said. They were here previously during a training period.

Asked when two additional psychiatrists would be brought to the Yukon, Poole said “soon.”

Yukoners can expect an improved service this year, he noted. Implementing a full service in that timeframe, however, would be “overly optimistic.”

“We also want to do it right,” Poole said, “so they and the resident psychiatrists would have to commit to the fact that this would be the case of providing full coverage all the time.”

Poole characterizes psychiatrists’ work as having been siloed for “possibly a couple of decades.”

“We wouldn’t want to rush hiring bodies if that’s not going to give a true service to the Yukon. We’re trying to make sure we do this properly for a good, long-term plan as opposed to a band-aid solution,” he said.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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