The Yukon government says it will be opening new hospitals in Dawson City and Watson Lake as acute care facilities, but the Yukon Medical Association is concerned about where they will find staff.

Health Minister Doug Graham made the statement Tuesday in the legislature. It came as a surprise to Yukon Medical Association president Dr. Rao Tadepalli.

"I would not be expecting to run an acute care facility in Dawson," he said.

When new health care facilities for Dawson City and Watson Lake were planned, they were going to be staffed by nurse practitioners with doctors on call — a form of collaborative care. In acute care facilities, doctors would provide around the clock care.

Tadepalli said existing health care services are already strained by a lack of staff, and the government needs to come up with plans to keep existing services operating instead of opening new acute care facilities.

He said he would consider Dawson City's facility as sub-acute, where patients with problems such as simple infections could be treated, and those with more serious conditions would be stabilized and medevaced to Whitehorse.

"Yukon doctors are under a lot of strain," he said. "We know there are upcoming shortages that are not being filled; there are a couple of excellent physicians which are leaving. I think we can do a better job of recruitment and retention which we are not doing currently."

Opposition politicians also want to know how the government will staff the new hospitals and what it will cost to do that. Graham said he doesn't know, but a formula is being worked on.