Premiers' gathering a perfect time to talk health care

This open letter was written by lawyer and community advocate Shaunagh Stikeman:

After sustained pressure from the community, the Yukon Party finally started playing catch-up on health care this week. There is no doubt that adding 10 continuing care beds is a welcome start to tackling the health care challenges Yukoners face every day. There’s also no doubt there’s much more to do, and this week’s Council of the Federation meetings are a great opportunity.

I sincerely hope Premier Darrell Pasloski uses this week’s meetings with Canada’s premiers to discuss how to take real leadership to fix the health services on which so many of us rely. That means, first and foremost, advocating for a strong federal Health Care Accord that reverses conservative cuts to health care funding.

On the home front, the Yukon government needs to do more to address the ways our health care system is falling short. When it comes to our health care, we can’t afford to just play catch-up; we have to start getting ahead of the game.

The people I’ve spoken to on the doorstep know just as well as the experts that acute hospital care is only part of the discussion. Yukoners also desperately need more timely access to family physicians, surgeons, community nurses and specialists like mental health workers. 

There are just too many stories of having to wait months for access to specialist care due to high wait times. For too many Yukoners, that means living for long periods with uncertainty or pain. One person I’ve spoken to told me about waiting two years to see a dermatologist about their skin cancer. 

This can’t go on.

We need more front-line health care staff and real investments in homecare. We need continuing care that works for Whitehorse, but also parallel services that are tailored to seniors and Elders in other communities.

These are real challenges, and Yukoners are looking to their government to act. Now’s our time for renewed energy and fresh ideas. Let’s get ahead of this issue instead of waiting to read about another health care crisis in our newspapers.