For 23 years, Marianne Blythe didn’t bother to get medical attention when she needed it.
She was a regular patient at the River Valley Medical Walk-In Clinic in Whitehorse and never had a hard time getting an appointment.
But when the doctor she was seeing recently left town, the clinic stopped taking care of walk-in patients. It was the only walk-in medical clinic in the territory.
“I feel very betrayed. I feel betrayed by a system that I have supported all my life,” said Blythe, 71.
“And as I get older, I expect the things I have supported to be there to help me.”
Blythe wants to see more action from the territorial government – including a new walk-in clinic sooner rather than later – and more incentives for students in the territory to become doctors.
2,472 Yukoners on the waiting list for a family doctor
Blythe is now one of 2,472 Yukoners on the territorial government waitlist for a family doctor.
And waiting for a family doctor means waiting for Blythe even longer.
She said she spent about five hours in the emergency room on two separate occasions, just to get a doctor’s signature for regular blood tests needed for her chronic condition.
“I am very angry because I do not know the logistics of running an emergency service, but I know that my presence there costs a lot of money and that there are people who are really sick, who need it, ”she said.
The lack of a walk-in clinic comes as the Yukon hospital system is under pressure. The territory is in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak that has left it with the highest rate of active cases in the country.
And according to a spokesperson for the Yukon Hospital Corporation, the number of non-emergency visits to the emergency department at Whitehorse General Hospital, such as for prescription refills and colds, is on the rise.
These types of visits accounted for 4.4% of all patients from April to June, and that number rose to 7% from July to September, Matthew Davidson wrote in an email to CBC News.
“This health system is shortening my life”
Another of thousands of Yukoners on the territorial government’s family doctor waiting list is Greg Penner, 59.
To be exact, he and his wife are numbers 1,494 and 1,495 on the list, as of the start of this month.
This is according to an email Penner received from the Department of Health and Human Services registration team after contacting to see if there had been any updates since they registered seven months ago, in April.
The email also said that if Penner or his wife “really needed to see a doctor,” they should go to the emergency room.
He and his wife were lucky, he said, with no pre-existing or urgent health issues. And although he’s not yet a senior, Penner knows the stakes of not receiving continuing and preventive care as they get older are high.
“I’m going to die sooner, because right now … the model of medical care is “don’t come see us until you are really, really sick,” “Penner said.
He fears that without a family doctor he will not have access to regular follow-up for serious illnesses like cancer, heart disease or stroke.
“It literally means this health care system is making my life shorter.”
Waiting list to see a family doctor for up to 2 years
The Find a Family Doctor program was launched by the territorial government two years ago.
It has since matched 1,043 people with family doctors, but the list of people waiting to be matched continues to grow after recent doctor’s office closures.
According to a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services, the average wait time for a connection is 225 days. At the most, the ministry said the wait was just under two years, at 720 days.
“The Government of Yukon continues to work with the Yukon Medical Association to recruit and retain physicians,” said spokesperson Julie Ménard.
“We are working to expand nurse practitioners to serve communities, aging people, and expand access to virtual care alternatives.”
Need for more holistic and preventive care
Lillian Nakamura Maguire is a member of the coordination team for Seniors Action Yukon, a group of volunteers who advocate on behalf of seniors.
“If your health care needs are not taken care of and… people are left without care for a long time, things can go downhill. And for many older people… these are more vulnerable populations, ”said Maguire.
But Maguire said the answer is to provide access to many different medical services, not just family doctors.
“There is a need for long-term care, but a lot of these needs could be better supported and… less expensive if we had more workers and home care services… as well as preventative-type services.” , she said. .
But Marianne Blythe is not sure that she has time to wait for a system overhaul. If things don’t change for her by spring, she plans to move south for better care.
“I’m going to have to leave the Yukon… and I’m heartbroken. I gave my best in the Yukon. The Yukon has been very good to me. But on that question I’m going to have to say ‘ciao. ‘
“I have received long term service awards, and I would like to return them to Prime Minister Sandy Silver and his team and say ‘thank you for nothing.'”