Yukon Party criticizes the health minister's trip to Scotland

    Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee defended her trip to Scotland as an opportunity to discuss rural healthcare concerns, among other priorities. (Photo: P.Wilson)

    Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee spent seven days in Scotland following several rural health centre closures and service reductions in Yukon communities. McPhee hasn't visited Watson Lake in-person since 2021.

    The Yukon’s Health and Social Services Minister is under fire from the Official Opposition over a trip to Scotland last year

    During question period at the Yukon Legislative Assembly on Monday, MLA for Watson Lake Patti McLeod raised concerns about last summer’s rural health centre closures, and Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee’s apparent unwillingness to discuss long term healthcare in Watson Lake.

    “I would remind the minister that it wasn’t all that long ago that over 500 people in Watson Lake signed a petition calling on the minister to come to a community meeting about long-term care,” said McLeod on Monday. “Since then, the minister has never come to Watson Lake for a public meeting, as requested by that petition.”

    From September 1 to 7, 2023, Minister McPhee and her ministerial advisor travelled to Scotland with the intention of attending meetings related to rural healthcare, among other priorities.

    But McLeod pointed out that rural health centres continued to see closures following the minister’s return.

    “Shortly after the minister returned from her junket to Scotland, her government announced that the Ross River Healthcare Centre would be closed for almost a month,” said McLeod. “They joined Beaver Creek, Teslin, Pelly Crossing, and other communities, who all experienced reductions in service at their health centres last year.”

    “In response to that, chiefs, community leaders, and the Association of Yukon Communities all raised concerns. Instead of travelling to any of these rural communities for meetings, the minister decided to spend seven days in Scotland, in an almost $700 a night hotel. The total cost of the trip was almost $13,000. How does the minister justify taking this trip while rural communities in Yukon were experiencing prolonged reductions in service?”

    Faro and Pelly Crossing rounded out the final health centre service reductions for 2023, with the last reduction ending November 15.

    McPhee’s response at the Assembly clarified that she did, in fact, meet with community officials from Watson Lake remotely.

    “I can also indicate that I met […] approximately two weeks ago with the Watson Lake city council, and we talked about many of these same issues that are being brought up, including rural healthcare services, some justice issues, as well as long-term care in Watson Lake, and I certainly appreciated the opportunity to do that,” said McPhee. “What I can tell you about that is that those conversations will continue, because they are essential to providing service.”

    An e-mailed statement from cabinet communications clarified that Minister McPhee had participated in 18 in-person meetings and events across Yukon communities since being appointed to the Health and Social Services portfolio. Her last in-person visit to Watson Lake was in August, 2021.

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