Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 18: Health (18-24)

Chief of Vuntut Gwitchin hopes proposed law will improve health care delivery

March 14, 2024

Yukon government is proposing territory wide health authority to improve system.

APTN News: The chief of Vuntut Gwitchin says she’s hoping the health authority plan that is being proposed by the territorial government will help improve the lives of First Nations people in the Yukon.

Pauline Frost, who is also chair of the Chiefs Committee on Health, said First Nations people in the territory often experience inequities when it comes to healthcare.

She said many rural communities often don’t have designated doctors and that there is a lack of nurse practitioners in the territory, among other things. She further noted data indicates Indigenous people in the territory typically have shorter life expectancies than non-Indigenous people by around 10 years.

“That’s problematic,” she said. “In that process, we see a system sometimes that just passes in the night, where an individual shows up in an acute state and medical travel doesn’t catch up to them. So, we miss the process and sometimes miss a diagnosis.”

On March 11, Yukon’s Liberal government introduced a proposed law to create a health authority that will plan and deliver healthcare services and, according to the government, make the delivery of health services more efficient.

According to the government, the health authority will be named Shäw Kwä’ą, which means “it is all well, it is all good” in Southern Tutchone.

Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee noted it will also better reflect the realities people in the territory face regarding healthcare, especially First Nations people.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for Yukon First Nations to be part of this change,” she said.

Yukon is only one of two jurisdictions in Canada to operate without a health authority, the other being Nunavut.

The new legislation stems from a recommendation made in the 2020 health report Putting People First.

The health authority will be operated by a seven-person board. First Nations representatives will occupy three board positions.

Officials said the health authority will take up to three years to implement. Once operational, it will function as an arms-length organization. Healthcare services like community health centres, long term care and emergency medical services will fall under its responsibility.

The government has budgeted $9.4 million for the health authority. It will also be providing the majority of its money to operate.

Tiffany Boyd, deputy minister of health and social services, said the health authority will be “monumental” in transforming the territory’s healthcare system.

“It’s the first step of a very long journey to together,” she said.

Frost said the health authority will follow One Health, a concept emphasizing collaboration and coordination among various healthcare and other professionals.

She said taking a One Health approach will help ensure better efficiency for those accessing the healthcare system.

“Truly that’s what we want,” she said. “We want a One health care system, a healthcare system that is integrated of all nationalities, all cultures.”

The new legislation is expected to pass in the legislative assembly in the coming months.

On Tuesday, the federal government also announced it signed agreements totaling $86 million to improve healthcare in the territory.

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