As the Yukon's lawmakers return to the house on Thursday, the territory's doctors are pressing Premier Dennis Fentie's government for better mental health services for patients at the Whitehorse General Hospital.
Yukon Medical Association president Dr. Rao Tadepalli said emergency room staff at the hospital are becoming stressed by the growing number of patients with mental health problems.
"We have a lack of mental health facilities, we have [a] lack of security, we have a lack of mental health nursing," Tadepalli said Wednesday.
"Over the last one year … we had one mental health nurse who was available to us for 37.5 hours [a week], mainly in the day hours. And so it really becomes an incredibly difficult task of managing mental health patients currently at the Whitehorse General Hospital."
Tadepalli said emergency workers can be swamped on some nights, with as many as 20 patients, but they remain unequipped to handle mental health cases.
The medical association is waiting on the Yukon government to act on a resolution doctors passed at the association's 2007 annual general meeting.
Tadepalli said the government should also update the Yukon Mental Health Act to make it more patient-friendly.
"The Mental Health Act should not be about the board and the doctors and lawyers getting together; it should be about patient care.
"I find that sometimes we are waiting up to 60 hours to get a patient out of here, which is unacceptable. It's nothing but adding on stress right now. I mean, I do appreciate the act being in place, but there are part of that needs to be worked on."
The fall sitting of the Yukon legislative assembly begins Thursday afternoon.