Dawson City, Yukon Friday, January 22, 1999

Conga line anyone? Dawsonites welcome in 1999 at the New Year's Eve Soiree.Photo by Jennie Kershaw

Feature Stories

YTG Sets Aside Municipal Board Decision on Dawson Boundary Reduction
The Jeep Arctic Adventure
New Year's Eve Soiree Heralds in 1999
100 years ago
Antarctica: It's for the Birds
Held Up on a Dawson City Street
Klondyke Centennial Society Answers Your Questions
Yukon Quest Entries
Uffish Thoughts: Dog Musher is also a Geologist
Health Minister Has His Facts Wrong

Welcome to the Jan. 22, 1999 online edition of the Klondike Sun. The hardcopy edition hit the stands on Jan 19. It contained 16 pages, 13 photos, 24 articles, the PAWS cartoons strip, a new crossword and our new City Of Dawson page. We hope you enjoy this sampling of the paper. For subscriptions, see our home page.

YTG Sets Aside Municipal Board Decision on Dawson Boundary Reduction

by Dan Davidson

Residents of West Dawson and Sunnydale received a much anticipated New Year's gift from the territorial government on January 1 when the YTG disregarded the ruling of the Municipal Board and gave the City of Dawson the full boundary reduction it had petitioned for just over a year ago.

At hearings held in December 1997 only one intervener spoke against the city council's desire to rescind the West Dawson/Sunnydale portion of the 1993 boundary expansion. The original expansion contained far more of West Dawson than the town had requested and far less of the Klondike Valley, making it a board decision which really pleased no one.

It came at the end of several years of acrimonious public debate over Dawson need for more residential land and desire to control more of the watershed in the valley.

After the expansion Dawson found itself in the unenviable position of attempting to govern a service an area which it could most easily reach in the winter when the ice bridge stretched across the Yukon River. The new land could also be accessed by ferry during the summer, but not at all during freeze-up in the fall or break-up in the spring.

In reviewing the matter and attempting to find a way to make things work, council polled the residents of the area and found that, while most were less satisfied then they has expected to be with being under the city's umbrella, nearly all of them would still have preferred to be outside it.

The Municipal Board reported its decision in February, 1998 and it was immediately clear that city council was not happy with it. Discussions at council meetings indicated that Dawson hoped the politicians could be persuaded to overrule the advisors. That is just what happened.

As the December 30, 1998 press release from Community and Transportation Services indicates, "Dawson's redrawn map will exclude the areas of Sunnydale and West Dawson on the west side of the Yukon River. The change also involves narrowing the municipal boundary in the area lying within the Klondike Valley south and east of the town.

"The boundary reduction will help the municipality manage its jurisdiction more effectively. The municipality, First Nation and residents of the reduction area all indicated support for the reduction."

Speaking for C&TS Ross Knox indicated that the government's position was that there seemed to be no point in maintaining an expansion zones which no one except the advisory board seemed to want maintained.


The Jeep Arctic Adventure

Extracted from Chrysler's website

The Ultimate Driving Adventure

This week-long endurance test of machines and the people driving them will take our daring team of automotive editors through some of the most gruelling terrain on the planet. We're talking about 750 km of frozen, desolate, unpredictable Arctic-quality gravel road - complete with frozen rivers and just about every other type of icy obstacle you can imagine. With only three hours of dusky daylight available each day, it's sure to be an unforgettable adventure.

Jeep - There's Only One

Jeep® was selected for this icy excursion for a number of reasons. For one, it's the only brand of sport-utility vehicle with nearly sixty-years worth of off-road engineering know-how. In fact, Jeep is the most awarded family of 4x4 vehicles in the world. And leading the way is the all-new 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee - the most capable sport utility ever as well as Petersen's 1999 "4x4 of the Year."

A True Test of Sport Utility Supremacy

To get an accurate measure of Jeep® capability, the vehicles taking part in the Arctic Adventure were specially selected to represent a wide range of engines, transmissions, drivetrains and other equipment. The result will be a real-world challenge for Jeep TJ, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee - a torturous proving ground that will reveal the differences as well as the full capabilities of each vehicle.

Canada's Most Northerly Public Roadway

The Dempster Highway is part of the Trans Canada Trail, of which Chrysler Canada is a proud Founding Sponsor. This often treacherous stretch of gravel highway begins just east of Dawson City, Yukon, and runs for 750 km, ending at Inuvik, N.W.T. The Arctic Adventure will take our editorial explorers through the Yukon from Whitehorse to Dawson City and Eagle Plains, and then on to Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories and back again.

Check This Site for Trip Photos and Updates

Chrysler Canada will be transmitting actual digital photos and trip updates regularly throughout their journey. Be sure to visit www.canadiangeo-graphic.ca to check in to see how they're doing.

Read All About It

Whether you're in the market for a new sport-utility vehicle or you just want to find out how our team made out, you'll find a full report on the Arctic Adventure in special upcoming issues of World of Wheels and Le Monde del'Auto. You can bet our daring team of journalists will have some amazing stories to tell!


New Year's Eve Soiree Heralds in 1999

by Laura Massey

On Thursday, December 31st, 1998 over 50 Dawsonites braved the cold and joined together in the heat of celebration at the New Year's Eve Soiree. Held at St. Mary's Church, the party took place in the newly renovated schoolroom, starting at 9:00 p.m. and ending at 2:00 a.m. Proceeds raised through the evenings revelry went towards the building restoration fund.

Preparations began Monday as organizers gathered items with the event. Tables, chairs, a sound system and coat racks from the Downtown Hotel, fabric plants from the CIBC bank, white Christmas lights, bird cages and feathers from the Klondike Centennial Society, champagne flutes from Klondike Kate's restaurant, hangers and material from the Thrift store, theatre flats from Robert Service School and supplies from the Dawson City Museum were borrowed and transported to the site. Newly purchased dishes, glasses and utensils, linen donated by Lenore and the Raven's Nook, food's, prizes, time and labour were collected. Kitchen hardware was installed and the "Dutch door" cut in half. Songs were selected from borrowed CD's by D.J.'s Michel and Sylvain.

All Tuesday and Wednesday volunteers prepared food, washed dishes, cleaned, decorated and organized within the newly renovated schoolroom. Trips outside or a glance through the windows revealed heavy fog-blanketed streets. The treed outline of the Dome and sparkling Christmas lighted homes appeared eerie and macabre. Outside the temperature had dipped to minus forty Celsius and even Tim's dog, Buddy wasted no time with his leg up at the fence post. Inside the bar was set up, traffic area's defined and a dance floor created while partnerships and friendships were tested and formed. St. Mary's was ready to greet in the new year, 1999 and welcome the fifty ticket holding party gore's of the community.

Guest arrived in true Dawson style. Fashionably late and bundled in layers of furry hats, scarves, glove, Parker's, leggings, and boots. Although the temperature had warmed to around minus 30, steam trails lifted every time the door opened and people stepped into the foyer.

The door of the "Sister's room" opened into the warmth and decor of a 1920's speakeasy. Two oil fueled monitors ensured and even ambient temperature. A huge, wood burning furnace, housed in the unheated, permafrost-lined basement provided the bulk of the faintly fire scented heat. This furnace demanded regular feeding Fr. Tim to toss in more wood was my job. My low backed dress and nylon clad legs provided the stimulus needed for the task. No one complained of the cold or of the draft created when individuals exited to the smoking area on the front porch. In actuality the Arctic air provided a slight breeze and relief of those working up a sweat on the dance floor, scurrying around the bar or elbow deep in dishwater. Couples quickly lined up, anxious to taste the many appetizers, hors d'oeuvres, desserts and breads prepared by volunteers and chefs Wade, Josee and Brian. Beautifully displayed at the buffet table, items were constantly replenished.

Kim Adams was the hostess and MC for the evening. Dressed in a pretty 1920's style, artisan created flapper's dress, she later changed into the diapered New Year's baby. Accompanied by gray bearded Mac, attired in hooded black cloak of the old year they cha-cha'd around the dance floor at the stroke of midnight. Balloons and New Years streamers suspended from the ceiling were released. Stomping dances burst open the coloured orbs scurrying to gather gift vouchers and wrapped candy. Fire crackers exploded, starting those nearby. Throughout the room people kissed, hugged, embraces and cheered. Frosted champagne filled classes were raised in a toast to 1999, the New Year.

A special thank you to the following people and businesses that made the New Year's Soiree possible:

Art Webster and Art's Gallery, Joyce Caley and the Thrift Store, Dawson Video Store, Klondike Centennial Society, Klondike Kate's. CIBC, Riverwest, Downtown Hotel, Bonanza Meats, Maximilians, Dawson City Music Festival, Ruby's Restaurant, the Grubstake, YKNET, Kim Adam's, Kathryn Bruce, Sharon, Steve, Heather, Robin and Jennifer Touchie, Gloria and Stephanie Baldwin-Shultz, Skye Felker, Bonnie, Ralph and Monica Nordling, Wade Lamarche, Josee Savard, Brian Phelan, Kelly Miller, Bob Laking, Lenore Calnan, Mac Swackhammer, Virginia Mahoney, Rebecca Bradley, Michel Dupont, Sylvain Rapatel, Andrea Mansell, Ken Smith, Diane Roy, Cathy Wood, Jon Magnussen, Susan McDade, Vera Holmes, Andy Fras, Tim Coonen and St. Mary's Parish.

We hope no one has been left out! An unofficial tally suggest over $900.00 was raised for the St. May's Church building restoration fund.

New Year's Day was extremely bright. Blue skies highlighted frost-covered trees, fences and wires. Sparkly fresh snow covered most of the town of Dawson City. The beauty of the scene frost was a picture within my mind. Surely this picturesque setting has heralded in a great New Year.


100 years ago

Compiled by John Gould

The following items were taken mostly from the Klondike Nugget newspaper.

The Klondike Nugget of November 30,1898 had a short story of the first movies being shown in Dawson. It was known as the "Wonderscope."

The Monte Carlo had a full house on Sunday evening. The entertainment is remarkably wholesome and good and might be termed an "illustrated lecture," for the descriptions of the views are connected in such a fashion as to give a very good account of the late Hispano-American war. Very few of the views are brand new and the very best that could be secured. The moving pictures give a very good idea of modern warships in action.

Probably the most appreciated feature of the evening's entertainment was the illustrated song'singing of Mr. Fred N. Tracy. The gentleman has a clear, mellow and expressive voice, peculiarly well-fitted for singing and the picture illustrating the song, thrown upon the screen in series throughout the song, added a charm which predestines illustrated song singing to become a permanent amusement of future generations. It was announced from the stage that an entire change of program will be made next Sunday evening.

(Note, in those days the bars, saloons, closed down on Saturday midnight until Sunday midnight.)

Klondike Nugget December 3,1898

Weather for the Past Week - From the Official Observatory.

 MinMaxWind (mph)

So far the record tends to bear out the "Sour dough" that the wind never blows with a low temperature. The publication of the official weather records sounds the death knell of the stories of 70 and 80 below zero. Painkiller, coal oil, and whisky are unreliable thermometers and undoubtedly deceived many a man.

Local Brevities

Klondike Nugget of December 7,1898

The public library and reading room has passed into the hands of the first Presbyterian church and has been removed to the top of the A.C. office building.

The net proceeds of the Hippodrome sparring contest of two weeks ago amounted to $284.75 have been turned over to St. Mary's hospital as ordered by the referee, Mr. James Donaldson. It will be remembered that the referee decided the affair "no contest," and awarded the receipts to the Hospital.

Klondike Nugget July 2, 1898

Dawson is probably the only mining centre in the world which is a Sunday closing town.

From midnight Saturday to Midnight Sunday, the saloon doors are locked and all business is suspended except restaurants and places where light beverages and refreshments are dispensed. Work of any kind is prohibited and all boisterousness on the streets is quickly quieted by the police. Those who have been drunk for a week and gone six days without sleep, are given a chance to get in condition for another weeks run. When the two hands stand on 12 on Sunday night however there is merry making, and the rest of the night reminds one of a brewers picnic back in the State.


Antarctica: It's for the Birds

by Dan Davidson

Penguins on the Antarctic shoreline.

What do you do in the Yukon in November when the early winter is getting you down? Suzanne Crocker and Gerard Parsons came up with an interesting idea.

"We wanted to go south for a vacation," Suzanne said. "and so we did."

You can't get too much farther south than Antarctica, after all.

"It's one of those untouched places of the world," said Crocker, "plus it has penguins."

Crocker is a penguin fan. Once there, she discovered that it was a spectacular continent, but they didn't start off with a lot of knowledge.

For one thing, it takes a long time to get there, and the voyage itself can be a bit of a trial. It took several days of air travel to get to Buenos Aires, Argentina, by way of Whitehorse and New York.

Then there was an 18 day journey by ship down past the Falklands and across the Drake Passage to the protruding tip of the icebound continent. The southern leg of the journey landed them at the city of Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America. From there the trip home was by air.

The Drake Passage is generally known as one of the roughest journeys on any ocean.

"Our ship (the M.S. Disko) had no stabilizers and the sea trip was very rough." The Danish ship lived up to its name, rocking and rolling in winds that sometimes reached 75 knots and provided 20 to 30 foot waves.

When they visited the Falklands they were forced to spend the night on the islands. The winds were so bad that the Disko was snapping its lines at the dock and they couldn't secure the gangplank.

"When you slept in your little bunk you slid back and forth on the bunk - head banging one end, feet banging the other.

"In your cabin you had to put everything on the floor - otherwise it would just end up there anyway.

"When you ate - if you could eat - you had to hold on to the table with one hand at all times because the table was secured to the boat but the chairs weren't."

Walking on the ship was more like dancing from one hand rail to another, with no tether lines to help.

The Drake Passage is also noted for fog and ice bergs and the Disko did manage to hit one on a very foggy day, causing all the passengers to yell out "Titanic!"

Being a penguin fan, Crocker was pleased to find that the aquatic birds even lived on the Falklands. Of the seventeen species of penguins in the world, Parsons and Crocker saw five, including the large King penguin, which stands a bit over a metre high.

As for the Antarctic Peninsula itself, Crocker said it made her feel like someone had flooded the Rocky Mountains. Marie Byrd Land does contain the Lsworth Mountains which reach their peak at the 16, 864 foot Vinson Massif, some 300 miles inland.

"The highlight of everything was our encounters with the penguins, which we saw thousands of. They are quite adorable, comical little creatures that live up to their animated caricatures."

Having no natural land based enemies, the flightless birds are curious and trusting even though they are a bit shy.

"If you just plunk yourself down on the ground for awhile, invariably a few of them will waddle within a couple of feet of you to check you out. Otherwise, they'll just go about their business and you can watch them for hours."

Clumsy on land, the birds immediately become graceful when they hit the water, and move very quickly, porpoising through the icy ocean.

The Disko's passengers were on shore for two to three hours at a time, depending on the weather conditions. This sometimes meant getting up a 5 a.m. in order to make a shore trip in zodiac boats.

It was summer solstice in Antarctica when they arrived and winter solstice in Dawson when they returned on December 17. In spite of the long twilights, there was enough darkness to let them see the Southern Cross at night.

Crocker says she forgot to check out how water flows down drains in the southern hemisphere. In spite of spending a lot of shipboard time communing with the toilet bowl when the trip went beyond Gravol, she didn't notice in which direction the water flushed. Maybe next time.


Held Up on a Dawson City Street

by Penny Enders

One afternoon, after a cooling rain at the end of a recent trip visiting Dawson City, I headed out for a shopping stroll from the Downtown Hotel where I was staying.

While walking and glancing in the gift shop windows, I encountered two little boys, each holding a piece of paper. As I neared the boys I noticed a little girl with a box of crayola color pencils sitting at a table behind them. When I stopped to see what they were holding, the taller of the boys asked, "Would you like to buy a picture? It's only twenty-five cents."

I replied that I would like to see the picture first, which prompted the young man to show me his drawing titled "Duckie," a bright yellow duck wearing orange pants and a hat to match.

He told me his companion also had a drawing for sale, but he was only asking eleven cents for his. I was shown the second drawing, a colorful landscape with wildlife. After I had looked at both, I told the young salesman that his friend's drawing had more colors and content, and therefore should be priced higher, not lower.

I inquired about their ages, and learned that the elder was seven, the younger, six. I asked if the artists intended to sign their work should they become famous at some point in the future, and suggested that it would make the drawings more valuable, only to be told that they would remain unsigned

I offered the 7- year old salesman seventy-five cents for the pair, and after a surprised "Wow!" and a very brief glance at his partner, the deal was made. I provided three quarters, and the boys gave me their drawings. I congratulated the two little gentlemen on their entrepreneurship, thanked them for the wonderful drawings and they returned the thanks.

They quickly turned, forgetting about the little girl who had shared her pencils with them and they ran up the sidewalk, and I resumed my walk. As I passed a fenced alley between two buildings, I caught a glance of the two boys through a partially opened gate, standing at the rear of the building. I paused. The gap between the buildings funneled their voices to me as the older of the boys was saying, "We have seventy-five cents, and I have thirty cents in my pocket . . . we can put our money together, go to the store and buy something we can share."

As I continued on my stroll, one of the places I wanted to stop was Maximilian's, around the corner on Front Street. As I was approaching the entrance, the two artists ran out of the store almost colliding with me, the younger clutching a pack of bubble gum. I commented about their having just spent their recent earnings and asked again if they would be interested in signing their drawings, perhaps for an upwardly revised price, but they declined again. The boys disappeared down the street, and I walked into the store to consider other transactions.

Surely, private enterprise, even in its very infancy, is alive and well in Dawson City.

Ed Note: Penny and Dick Enders operate Alaska Video Pictures at 341 Beulah Circle, Anchorage, AK 99504. Thanks to Dina Cayen at the Chamber of Commerce for noticing this item on their web site and getting us permission to use it.


Klondyke Centennial Society Answers Your Questions

What is the KCS?

Fred and Palma Berger of Dawson were last year's Mr. and Mrs. Yukon.

The KCS is a non-profit organization of volunteers formed in 1990 with a mandate to promote public awareness of Dawson's centennials, and now we are Dawson's Tourism Centre! The Society has a plan that is continually evolving with a goal to promote the development of projects, events and activities to enhance Dawson and celebrate its centennials.

What Does the KCS Do?

Projects & Events - Ongoing:

Banner Program - banner design and fabrication to increase centennial awareness and beautify Dawson.

Centennial Ball - Each year in February to kick off the centennial celebrations for the New Year, an annual dine and dance in 1890's splendor. This year's party will be held on Saturday, February 13th. Be There!!!

Red Serge Horse and Rider Program - implemented in partnership with the RCMP, operates from June 1 - Aug 31. A RCMP officer dressed in Red Serge rides Justin through the streets of Dawson. Project sponsored by RCMP, Dawson Businesses and KCS.

Christmas Lights Contest - Exterior Christmas lights decorating contest for residential and commercial buildings. Judging takes place a few days before Christmas and prizes awarded for the best display. Project sponsored by Yukon Energy, Arts Society and KCS.

Projects in the Works:

Tribute to the Miner - A monument to commemorate and celebrate the contributions past, present and future, that the mining community has made to this community. This project is in partnership with the KPMA.

Sophia Memorial - A interpretation project dedicated to the remembrance of the Dawson citizens who perished. on Oct 24, 1918 aboard the Canadian Pacific Steamer Sophia which ran aground in bad weather on the Vanderbilt Reef near Juneau Alaska. Bad weather hampered rescue attempts and the Sophia slipped off the reef in the early morning of Oct 26 and sank. All 343 souls aboard were lost.

Discovery Claim - improvements have been made as part of a long-term project to turn Discovery Claim into a major Dawson attraction in recognition of the discoverers and contributions of mining.

Scrooge Claim - Claim purchased and will be developed into a Dawson attraction over the next 4 years.

In Planning Stages:

Commemoration of Joseph Ladue, Year 2000 Millennium Events, World Heritage Site


Ridge Road Trail -Originally built in 1899 and abandoned in 1902 when other routes opened. The trail winds along the high ground between Bonanza and Hunker. It was the first government built road in the Yukon and was a major supply route to the mines on Dominion and Sulfur This restoration project was started in 1996 and the interpretation and improvements were completed in 1998 will the help of government assistance, other agencies and the KCS.

Dawson City Centennial Project - consisted of two major components, the Tr'ondek Hwech'in Cultural Center implemented cooperatively by Tr'ondek Hwech'in and KCS. The Dawson Waterfront Improvements included: river overlook interpretive sight, relocation of gazebo, landscaping at gazebo and across from Commissioners Residence, flood gates, new dock, and dock landing. The Welcome to Dawson sign on the Klondike Highway and Top of World Highway all projects which were completed in 1998 with the financial assistance of Government of Yukon , Centennial Anniversaries Program, City of Dawson and KCS.

If you are interested in finding out about the Klondyke Centennial Society and would like to be a member or volunteer please call. You are welcome to attend our meetings if you have ideas or suggestions, held on the first Wednesday of each month at 7:30pm at the Centennial Center Building.


Yukon Quest Entries

1. Daniel KellerFt. Wainwright, AKV
2. Mark MayNorth Pole, AKV
3. Sebastian SchnuelleWhitehorse, YTR
4. Walter PalkovitchTwo River, AKV
5. George CarrollFairbanks, AKR
6. David DaltonFairbanks, AKV
7. Frank TurnerWhitehorse, YTV
8. Sepp HerrmannFairbanks, AKR
9. Larry GroutFairbanks, AKV
10. Connie FrerichsDelta. Jct., AKV
11. Paddy SantucciFairbanks, AKV
12. J. SchandelmeierPaxson, AKV
13. Chester FieldsFort Yukon, AKR
14. Aliy ZirkleTwo River, AKV
15. Thomas TetzTagish, YTV
16. Andre NadeauSte-Melanie, PQV
17. Tony BlandfordFairbanks, AKV
18. Larry CarrollWillow, AKV

19. Jennifer WolkDenali Park, AKR
20. Rick WintterFairbanks, AKV
21. Wayne CurtisWasilla, AKR
22. Peter ButteriTok, AKV

23. Rusty HagenNorth Pole, AKV
24. Michael KingSalcha, AKV
25. Jim HendrickDenali Park, AKV
26. Stan NjootliOld Crow, YTV
27. Ed HopkinsTagish, YTV

28. Peter LedwidgeDawson, YTR
29. Kris SwanguarinHealy, AKV
30. Ramy BrooksHealy, AKV
31. Carolyn FarrTanana, AKR
32. David O'FarrellTagish, YTV
33. Jack BerryHomer, AKV
34. Petra NoelleGermanyR
35. Ed AbrahamsonAlaskaV

Since this list was compiled #16 has scratched due to an illness among his dogs. Nadeau was last year's second place musher and will be missed.


Uffish Thoughts: Dog Musher is also a Geologist

by Dan Davidson

Sometimes the stories walk off the street and take you by the hand. When you've been in this business for awhile people start to ask you if this or that wouldn't make a good tale. Such was the case with last issue's story about Peter Ledwidge, the rookie Quest musher who hopes to learn from the experience of running the big race this year.

Now I don't actually know Peter that well, although we have some friends in common and a bit of common background. Y'see, Peter would have been in upper elementary school in the Wolfville area about the time I was sitting in his father's first year university French class at Acadia University.

Yup, Peter's another transplanted Nova Scotian. I thought it was quite neat when, a couple of years back, he entered in the Percy DeWolfe mail race. After all, the Iron Man himself came from the Wolfville area, being the scion of a locally notable family who went west and never came back.

In talking to Peter on the day of our interview, it became clear that he had been inspired by the Klondike when he first spent time here in 1980. I wanted to emphasize that in the story. Peter was pretty definite in our conversation that he'd had a little trouble settling into a vocation. It's hard to avoid higher education when you're the son of a university professor, but Peter volunteered that he'd tried a couple of fields of study before he worked his way across the country, and the process just had not taken for him.

It was the Klondike experience that fixed his mind on geology and sent him back to study that discipline. Focussed by this new ambition, he did achieve a B.Sc.. in Geology and then set out to work his way back across the country, finally settling here.

Writing the story, I gave that anecdote and was careful to mention elsewhere in the story that he now works as a mining and geology contractor. I assumed people would make the connection. After all, many of us - me included - try out a few things before we find our way in life.

Not safe to assume that, I guess. Peter called me up the night the story appeared in the Whitehorse Star. He'd had a couple of calls about the article from some friends in the city. They liked it, as did he, but they wondered why he'd never finished university...


In fairness to my writing, I thought I'd left enough background in there to make it clear that he'd completed a course of study - but I didn't actually SAY that, and the omission left the possibility that someone might not make the connection.

I was focussed on telling the story of how he got involved in dog mushing rather than the story of how he became a geologist, and it didn't occur to me that anybody would misconstrue that. As far as I know, no one local spotted the lapse when the story appeared in the Sun, but Whitehorse folks picked it up.

Peter was understandably concerned and called to ask what might be done.

Well, THIS can be done, so I'm doing it. Let's not leave anybody with the idea that Peter's technical education is in any way deficient. He'll be happy to show you his graduation photos and degree to prove it. After all, if Dawson's newest musher can't make a living at his job he won't be able to pursue his new vocation, and his dogs will be terribly disappointed.


Health Minister Has His Facts Wrong

by Dr. Suzanne Crocker & Dr. Gerard Parsons

Doctors Gerard Parsons and Suzanne Crocker

We feel compelled to respond to the letter by the Minister of Health, Mr. David Sloan, printed in the last issue of The Klondike Sun. He suggested that there were some factual errors and omissions in our November 24th letter to the citizens of Dawson regarding rural health care. We disagree.

Mr. Sloan's letter indicated that we erred in stating that the number of physicians practicing permanently in rural Yukon has decreased by 43% over the past two years. His letter was referring to a discrepancy in the number of physicians practicing permanently in Watson Lake.

Two years ago there were seven permanent rural physicians in the Yukon: two in Dawson; two in Faro; three in Watson Lake. As of December 1998, there were four permanent rural physicians practicing in the Yukon: two in Dawson; one in Faro; one in Watson Lake. This represents a drop of 43% in the number of permanent rural physicians in the Yukon.

Between September 1997 and May 1998 two of the three permanent physicians in Watson Lake left that community for lifestyle reasons. Despite a year long search and a significant investment in advertising and headhunting fees, the remaining permanent physician in Watson Lake was unable to attract a single Canadian physician to practice long term in his rural community.

A physician from Fiji worked in Watson Lake for three months this past summer in order to gather the Canadian practice experience required to be licensed to practice in B.C. After those three months the physician moved to B.C.

Since October 1998, two physicians from Egypt have been practicing in Watson Lake in order to acquire the Canadian practice experience required to be able to practice in urban Ontario where they have a house, furniture, two school-aged children and extended family. These are obviously only temporary solutions to the shortage of physicians willing to practice permanently in Watson Lake.

It is true that the Yukon and the NWT have a higher fee schedule compared to the national average, as Mr. Sloan quoted from the Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine. The Yukon and the NWT also have a higher cost of living.

The Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine also states: "the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada, considering the evidence of excessive working hours and on-call periods on physician performance and well-being, recommends that formal on call schedules include at least 5 participating physicians" and notes: "no single measure has served to have a more positive impact on the lives of rural-based physicians than payment for on call."

Although Mr. Sloan's letter implies that the higher fee schedule in the Yukon should be adequate to attract physicians to rural Yukon, his letter fails to point out that the fee schedule in rural Yukon is no higher than the fee schedule in Whitehorse where family physicians share a voluntary call schedule amongst twenty physicians. In provinces such as BC, besides providing an on-call fee for rural doctors, the fee schedule is also higher for rural communities than it is for their urban counterparts.

Currently 9 out of the 12 provinces and territories of Canada have provisions for on-call reimbursement for their rural physicians. Unless the Yukon becomes competitive it cannot reasonably expect to attract nor retain physicians in its rural communities.

It is important to re-emphasize that the purpose of on-call reimbursement is not to increase the current permanent physicians' incomes. The purpose of on-call reimbursement is to increase the pool of money available in a community in order to attract a larger number of physicians to share the burden of on-call. We, in Dawson, are not looking for an increase in personal income. We are looking for a few weekends off and a life!

Compared with our urban counterparts, rural doctors are on-call much more frequently and have the associated stress of no specialist back-up and fewer diagnostic aids. For these reasons the burden of on-call in rural communities leads to physician burn-out and to physicians leaving rural practices all across Canada.

On-call reimbursement allows the burden of after-hours availability to be shared by more physicians. This allows resident physicians to have more time off call and makes rural working conditions more sustainable.

The Minister of Health has suggested that all alternative payment mechanisms have been negotiated by the Yukon Medical Association and that we are requesting an exception by asking the government to discuss the issue with us directly. In fact the opposite is true.

The Yukon Medical Association (which represents all doctors in the Yukon) negotiates with the government every two years with respect to the fee schedule, i.e. the fee-for-service payments doctors receive for services rendered. "Alternative payment mechanisms" are payment mechanisms separate from fee-for-service payments and they usually only apply to a small number of doctors. Rural on-call reimbursement is an example of an alternative payment mechanism. There are several other examples of alternative payment mechanisms already in place in the Yukon. (One such example is an on-call fee for Whitehorse medivac doctors.) And these alternative payment mechanisms have not been negotiated within the formal YMA/YTG fee negotiating forum.

The Yukon Medical Association supports us in our attempt to discuss rural on-call reimbursement directly with the government outside the formal YMA/YTG fee negotiating forum.

On January 7, 1999, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health agreed to come to Dawson on January 18 to begin discussing the issue of sustainable working conditions.

If the Yukon government continues to decline the provision of on-call reimbursement, there are several potential outcomes for Dawson City. One possible outcome is that resident physicians will remain in Dawson City but will not provide 24 hour on-call emergency coverage. Another possible outcome is that the current physicians will leave Dawson for a community with a less frequent on-call schedule. Unfortunately, if the current working conditions remain unchanged, Dawson City would have difficulty attracting and retaining replacement physicians. This would result in a high turnover of new doctors.

Any of the above scenarios would result in a decreased quality of health care delivery in Dawson City. We, the current resident physicians, enjoy living in Dawson and enjoy our medical practice in Dawson. However, without the ability to change the burden of on-call, the current situation is not sustainable nor will it be desirable for any other physicians.

We sincerely thank those citizens of Dawson who have expressed their concern for physician sustainability and 24 hour physician on-call availability to the Minister of Health. If these issues are important to you please make your concerns known to Mr. David Sloan, Minister of Health, Box 2703, Whitehorse, YT, Y1A 2C6; phone number 1-800-661-0408; fax number 867-393-8424.


Klondike Sun Home Page