Question re: Dawson City and Watson Lake hospitals – March 28, 2013

Mr. Silver: The issue of new hospitals has been in the news lately and for all the wrong reasons. The government has been roundly criticized for poor planning and poor financial management of the two new hospital projects in rural Yukon. The Auditor General of Canada’s report on the mistakes the government made is quite a read.

The centrepiece of this year’s budget is a $27-million bailout of the Yukon Hospital Corporation to clean up the financial mess that has been created. Once the hospitals are finished they will need to be staffed. When the government decided to build these facilities there was no plan in place to staff either one of them.

Will the Minister of Health and Social Services confirm that nurses from Whitehorse General Hospital have been asked to work in the new hospital in Dawson because there are not enough nurses to staff the facility?

Hon. Mr. Graham: At this point in time I’m not sure if what the member opposite said is accurate or not.

I will ask the Yukon Hospital Corporation to provide you with that information as quickly as they can.

Mr. Silver: I appreciate that from the minister responsible. Mr. Speaker, it’s my understanding that the current plan is to staff the new hospital in Dawson by bringing nurses in from Whitehorse because the government’s recruiting efforts have been a failure to date. Whitehorse General Hospital is already short of nurses and that problem is going to get worse because the government wants to use these same nurses to help out Dawson. We find ourselves in this position because of poor planning by this government. Where the government is going to find doctors for the new hospital is another question entirely — one that just got harder to answer because of this government’s poor relationship with Yukon doctors. Yesterday the head of the Yukon Medical Association said, and I quote: “The government should make it their top priority. Changing their attitude and mending their relationship with the doctors.”

We know that nurses at the new hospital will come from Whitehorse. Does the minister have a plan to ensure that there are enough doctors to run the new facility in Dawson?

Hon. Mr. Graham: Mr. Speaker, I would take my whole minute and a half to answer the member’s inaccuracies in his preamble, but instead I will keep it very short. I have recently talked to the lead physician in Dawson City, who has assured me that he has done an excellent job of recruiting, in cooperation with the Government of Yukon, Department of Health and Social Services, and he felt — as late as two weeks ago — that he would have absolutely no trouble at all staffing his clinic in Dawson City.

Mr. Silver: I would love to get some information on that, as far as these doctors’ names — it would be great to hear. It would be the first time.

Aside from the fact that the government has no plan to staff the new hospital in Dawson, there continues to be a problem with the construction of the project itself. The hospital is delayed; it is millions of dollars overbudget and there have been problems with the general contractor on the project as well. The government has acknowledged the problem with the general contractor, but hasn’t given the public any information to date about the potential impacts on the construction project. These delays will likely mean more money and a later opening date.

Has a new contractor been found to finish the project, and what is the project’s opening date and final cost of the building?

Hon. Mr. Graham: I had a meeting with the CEO and the chair of the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board yesterday, and they inform me that progress was being made with a bonding company that represented or bonded Dowland. They hoped to have a new contract signed in the very near future and that work would recommence on the Dawson City hospital — or the Dawson City health facility. I should tell you that work has been progressing, although very small projects — but work has been progressing on the health centre, even though the main contractor has deserted the project.