Question re: Yukon Hospital Corporation MRI machine - April 7, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Hospital Corporation.

A few days before this sitting began the minister announced that $2.8 million would be spent to build a temporary home for Whitehorse General Hospital’s new MRI machine. While the project has been on the radar for some time, this is the first time the public words “temporary facility” were being used.

When did the government change course from putting the MRI in the existing hospital to, instead, building an expensive temporary structure, and why?

Hon. Mr. Graham:     Mr. Speaker, it’s a temporary structure only in that the MRI will be located in this structure until such time as the larger facility — the renovations and addition — has been completed. The reason that the MRI will be located in this facility is because we would like to see the MRI available to Yukoners for their use as quickly as possible. Given the parameters of the addition and the changes made to the rebuild that will be occurring at the Whitehorse General Hospital, it would not have been available for as much as four or five years — until the whole addition was completed. The Hospital Corporation recommended, and we felt that it was best, that this solution be employed so that the MRI is available to Yukoners as quickly as possible.

Mr. Silver:   The Auditor General of Canada wrote an extensive report last year on this government’s mismanagement of the Watson Lake and Dawson hospitals. Both of these facilities were completed behind schedule and millions of dollars overbudget. Now taxpayers are also left on the hook to pay for years to come for the interest on the $50 million borrowed to build these facilities.

The government planned to purchase a new MRI machine, but had no plan as to where to put it. Now, after the money has already been raised, the government is scrambling and has been forced to spend almost $3 million to build a temporary home for this piece of equipment. Can the minister explain how spending $3 million is good value for our taxpayers?

Hon. Mr. Graham:     I sometimes have difficulty answering questions from the member opposite because he doesn’t listen.

I said that the facility where the MRI will be located is a new construction. The MRI machine will be located in that construction for a short duration, but at the end of that period of time, the facility that will be constructed for the MRI machine will be repurposed by the Hospital Corporation in order to be used for another purpose at the hospital. The member opposite seems to have difficulty comprehending the fact that what we’re doing here is constructing a facility that will be used for a different purpose in the future once the MRI machine is moved into the permanent construction.

Mr. Silver:   Listen to what? We still don’t know what this new home is going to be for this temporary facility. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be listening to when we don’t even know what it’s going to be used for.

It has been a good idea to have a plan in place before deciding to purchase an MRI. The plan could have been a spot in the existing hospital or a spot in the expansion. The government has known about this since 2010. They have racked up $50 million in debt. They were bailed out this time last year, and still managed to come in overbudget and behind schedule on some major projects. Now the MRI machine itself will cost $4 million and the government is going to spend almost three-fourths of that purchasing price on a temporary home for it.

Why was proper planning not done to ensure that a space is ready for permanent housing for this new piece of technology?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     What we’re hearing is more Liberal math. We heard some NDP math last week and now we’re hearing some Liberal math. I want to applaud the generosity of Yukon businesses and Yukon citizens who committed to this project to raise money for an MRI.

I want to acknowledge the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, who played a fundamental role — may I add — during the fundraising efforts. They committed to a three-year project and, in fact, delivered the money in two years. I have to again applaud the generosity and hard work of all individuals who were able to do that.

Putting this MRI in place will make a difference in people’s lives as soon as we get it there. There will then not be a need for people to travel Outside to have this diagnostic test done, sometimes having to take a parent or guardian with them. There will be less time missing work, because they will be able to just quickly go in and have the test done.

We’ve heard Yukoners say that this is a priority; we continue to deliver excellent health care for Yukoners that surpasses expectations and reality, in terms of looking at some of the other jurisdictions. People come back and tell us what an incredible health care system we have.

What an envious position we are in — net financial resources, the largest capital budget in history and money left over in a surplus — something a Liberal government could not do.