Whitehorse psychiatrist stymied by Yukon's medical licensing agency

·2 min read

A Whitehorse psychiatrist says she may have to leave the territory because she can't get licensed to practice.

Karen Ni is Canadian, but was trained in the U.S. and recently practiced in rural Alaska.

She came to Whitehorse in September, hoping to practice as a psychiatrist. But she said she was told by the Yukon Medical Council that she would first need to qualify for a licence in the territory — something Ni says could take up to two years.

"The Yukon isn't an option right now," Ni said. "And I'm just kind of surprised because there's a very long wait time for psychiatrists, more so than anywhere else that I've lived in."

Under the territory's current medical licensing rules, physicians must be certified by the Medical Council of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons or get a licence in another Canadian jurisdiction.

Ni said she could move to B.C. to start that process, but it would take two years.

Health minister says she won't get involved

The medical council in Yukon also has the power to issue a special licence for specialists when there's a need. That requires a job offer and a declaration of need for the service the physician offers from the territorial health minister.

Yukon Health Minister Pauline Frost said she has no plans to get involved in Ni's case because, Frost said, the territory has 17 visiting and resident psychiatrists. That is "sufficient," the minister said.

Yukon Government
Yukon Government

"To issue a licence politically for a psychiatrist is not something that this government does," Frost told reporters Tuesday. "It's certainly not something that I would interfere in. That decision is overseen by the Yukon Medical Council and they make the decision."

In the legislative assembly, the opposition Yukon Party has put forward a motion calling on the government to reveal how many people are waiting to see a psychiatrist, what the average wait time is, and who Frost consulted with to determine that Yukon has enough psychiatrists.

"I really question how she came to that conclusion," said Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers. "We hear from people that tell us they're waiting for an appointment with a psychiatrist and sometimes waiting for quite a while for that appointment."

In the meantime, Ni said she's working remotely with clients in the U.S. She hasn't decided whether she'll leave the territory, but said the whole experience is frustrating.

"I'm a little bit turned off by what I've seen so far," she said. "I don't really know what to expect if I were to be granted a licence here in the Yukon. I'm not sure what the next steps are."