Letter to the Editor RE: Rural Health Centre Closures

Over the summer, several Community Health Centres have seen reductions in service or have been closed for several days or weeks. This is a great concern, as Community Health Centers are the primary contact to access health services in rural communities. It is an essential service for many rural Yukoners. 

Many communities across the Yukon have declared both a mental health emergency and substance use emergency over recent years. Our territory is in crisis, and yet we see no concrete action from the government to better support communities when it comes to equitable access to health services delivered through local health centers.

The nursing shortages across our territory can no longer be blamed on Covid. Nurses and staff need more support from the Yukon Government in communities. They work long hours and need to be available at all times. They are at high risk of burn-out, which has been one of the driving factors of chronic understaffing. They often lack support for their own mental health, particularly after a traumatic incident.

Staffing is a long-standing issue that needs to be addressed and resolved in partnership with each community, according to their specific realities and needs.

Nurses are an important part of the community as they work with all people across the lifespan. The government needs to do better to recruit them, support them and retain them across the territory. The government needs to be flexible with scheduling and supporting healthcare workers and communities in the way that they have asked.

From Elders and seniors hoping to age in place, surrounded by family and in their community, to people living with chronic health issues or specific medical and/or mental health needs, expecting parents, and everyone in between, rural Yukoners have waited long enough for health services to be truly accessible in communities.

The government often talks about the Putting People First Report, the Aging in Place strategy, but little change has happened on the ground.

We are at a critical time where we need to truly look at decentralizing health services from Whitehorse and look at what and how more health care services can be made available in communities.