Doctor shortage persists in Whitehorse

Whitehorse is still short of family doctors, meaning more people are ending up at the emergency room for care.

People in Whitehorse looking for a family doctor may be out for luck for a while yet.

There are 70 doctors in the Yukon — most of them in Whitehorse — but there's been a shortage ever since the Yukon government closed walk-in clinics last year.

Dr. Rao Tadepalli, president of the Yukon Medical Association, said the government closed walk-in clinics in favour of continuous care for Yukoners, but there are still not enough general practitioners to meet the demand for care, meaning more people are ending up at the emergency room in order to see a doctor.

Tadepalli said the Yukon Medical Association is working with Whitehorse General Hospital to fill the gap by adding an extra doctor and nurse to the emergency ward for the day shift.

He says the population has grown — and the health care system is feeling the pinch.  

"Health care is bursting at its seams, there is no doubt about it. The hospital is overburdened with people awaiting long-term care. If people are awaiting long-term care, it spills down to the emergency room."

One newly-graduated doctor will replace another who is retiring, and two more brand new GPs are expected to move to Yukon this spring.  

"We're obviously trying to attract newer graduates," he said. "We're working with the government on getting them here and the government is allocating a resource person specially designated for recruitment. So they're working on these aspects, and it’s a work in progress."

Tadepalli said the new triage area at the emergency ward would open at the end of January.