There's no place for hospital bed and staffing shortages in Yukon

The following is an open letter written by Yukon NDP Health and Social Services Critic Jan Stick:

I was disappointed, yet not surprised, to read Dr. David Storey’s repeated concerns about the critical shortage of beds at Whitehorse General Hospital in Friday’s Yukon News. Last week, Dr. Storey was forced to cancel two scheduled operations because there were no beds available for his patients. At present, chronic and palliative care patients occupy the majority of the hospital’s 17 acute and post-surgical care beds.

Dr. Storey first called on the Yukon Party to address our bed shortage in November 2014. Nearly two years later, the government has not acted – and the unaddressed issue of bed availability is amplified by a lack of permanent nursing staff. An already urgent need for resources has become increasingly critical.

The Yukon NDP has echoed Dr. Storey’s concerns and repeatedly asked the Yukon government to act on Whitehorse General’s bed and staffing shortfalls. We have pushed for creative short-term solutions like expanding the use of the Thomson Centre or increasing the home care services available to some long-term patients. In response, all the Yukon Party has said is that the bed shortage should not impact surgeries.

Last week, Dr. Storey again stated that this is not the case.

The planned hospital emergency department expansion will not create additional beds for acute and post-surgical care. The Whistle Bend continuing care facility would open up some hospital beds, but that solution (controversial though it may be) is not slated to welcome patients until 2018. Given the ongoing challenges to find both hospital and community nurses, I am concerned that there won’t be enough health care professionals to adequately staff a 150-bed facility – let alone the planned-for 300 beds.

The bed space and staffing problems at Whitehorse General Hospital are urgent and require immediate action. The Yukon Party approach to healthcare planning is not working. Their inaction has put patients at risk. It is time that we deliver quality health care services to all Yukoners, and that is what a Yukon NDP government would do.