Category: Doug Graham Letters

Ministers Working Collaboratively on FASD prevention and intervention

Doug Graham, MLA for Porter Creek North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, September 27th, 2013
by Doug Graham, Minister of Health & Social Services

The tragedy of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder, or FASD, is one that touches all Yukoners in one way or another. FASD is a life-long condition that cannot be cured and those with the disability require ongoing support to lead functional and rewarding lives.

It’s not often that a minister can dedicate three full days to one issue, but this week I had just that opportunity. Along with Health and Social Services staff, I attended two events in Edmonton – an international conference, involving 35 countries, on prevention of FASD and a meeting of the Canada Northwest FASD Partnership, whose members include Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The Yukon government and key groups within our territory have been leaders in looking at the issue of FASD for many years. Work has focussed on research, provision of support and prevention.
Health and Social Services developed Yukon’s first FASD diagnostic team for preschool children (including therapists, physicians and psychologists), working with the Child Development Centre. Our government also provides a number of supports for women and families. Early screening, diagnosis and support can make a world of difference in improving the lives of people with this incurable condition. As well, we have created a wide range of materials to create awareness of this issue and encourage prevention. (For more information, go to www.hss.gov.yk.ca.)

We must, however, do more. We are looking within the department of Health and Social Services to see how we can better integrate social services, health services, mental health and addictions services. We want to make sure that when individuals come to us, we can be ready to help, no matter which door they knock on.

This week’s events were an invaluable opportunity to hear what is happening across western and northern Canada, as well as internationally. With an issue as challenging and pervasive as FASD, our best hope is in working together to find the most promising and innovative approaches for prevention and intervention, as well as the best ways to care for and support those living with FASD. I have asked my department officials to discuss what we heard this week and recommend how we might be able to incorporate new ideas into the work we are already doing.

This is a community issue, as well as a global one, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to interact with people from around the world who care about those afflicted with FASD.

The health care system responded appropriately

Doug Graham, MLA for Porter Creek North

Letter to the editor, submitted to the Whitehorse Star and Yukon News on Friday, August 2, 2013
by Doug Graham, Minister of Health & Social Services

Re. Riverdale South MLA Jan Stick’s comment that Yukoners should have been but were not informed of the tragic deaths of two women until the release of a coroner’s report, 13 months after the fact.

I would like to say that all deaths are tragedies.

No matter the circumstances, there is always someone who will grieve – someone who will carry the tragedy of the death with them.

Many deaths occur in hospitals – in Yukon hospitals, or others.

The Yukon Hospital Corp. (YHC) does its due diligence, respecting individual privacy.

Hospital staff work within privacy legislation that sets limits on the public disclosure of sensitive personal information.

I am surprised an elected official would be so quick to comment and be so naïve as to the role of the coroner’s office.

The majority of provinces and territories, including Yukon, use the coroner system to investigate certain deaths.

The legislation of each jurisdiction governs the circumstances that require the reporting of a death to the coroner by any person, including a physician, when they have reason to believe the death occurred under a circumstance listed in the legislation, including when a death is unexplained or occurs in unusual circumstances.

It would be naïve of us to assume that we as the public should know all the details of these two hospital deaths.

First, the privacy of the family and deceased must be respected to the fullest extent possible in the circumstances.

Secondly, the coroner’s office must have time to conduct the investigation and make such recommendations as they deem appropriate.

MLA Stick alleges the system let these individuals down, and charges the department and the hospital for remaining silent on details and information.

As minister, I would not even have this information because of privacy considerations. And the hospital takes its responsibilities around privacy very seriously.

The role of the coroner’s office is to conduct the investigation and to make, if appropriate, recommendations to prevent similar deaths. The system, therefore, did respond appropriately.

The YHC did not wait for the final report but began working to improve the areas it identified. It did not wait to address concerns but began immediately to improve service and ensure patient safety.

The YHC is close to completing a patient safety review that did not wait for the coroner’s report.

It should be noted that these reviews are not released publicly, a standard practice across Canada, to ensure all staff and health care providers can have full, open disclosure and discussion during the review on potential issues and remedies.

As the department responsible for health care provision in Yukon, we want to make sure that all our citizens are receiving the safest care and of the highest possible quality.

We will continue to work with the hospital and providers across the system.

To suggest that our system is failing, or that by not publicizing personal information we have not done our duty to our citizens, is not only wrong, but clearly not in keeping with the legislation of our territory.