FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 4, 2023
WHITEHORSE – The Yukon Party Official Opposition is increasingly concerned about our health care system, and the financial crisis at Yukon Hospitals that is causing a health care crisis.
The Minister of Health and Social Services has attempted to paint a 30% reduction in surgical services as just a ‘normal Christmas slowdown,’ despite the fact doctors are saying this reduction in surgeries will be at least twice as long as normal and appears likely to impact surgeries until the end of March 2024.
On December 1, the Liberal government issued a news release about “working together to support hospital services” that oddly avoided any details about additional funding allegedly being provided to respond to the growing crisis in our hospitals. The news release was very light on details and seems to be just a reannouncement of the inadequate funding contained in the supplementary budget.
“Doctors are telling us they are very concerned about the impact the Liberal cuts to health services will have on their patients, and that we are at risk of losing resident surgeons due to these cuts,” said Health and Social Services Critic Brad Cathers. “We understand surgeons at Whitehorse General Hospital have informed colleagues, ‘this reduction in services has been extended into January and is currently indefinite. This is due to financial constraints.’ And that they have said, ‘This will mean longer wait times for cancer diagnosis and treatments, as well as longer wait times for all elective surgeries. In addition, if this service reduction is prolonged, the territory is at risk of losing its resident surgical programs. As you can imagine, this would be disastrous for our community.”
During the Fall sitting, the Yukon Party pushed the Liberals to address the alarming health care service cuts reported by health care professionals. One longtime Yukon doctor said publicly the entire system is ‘on the down slide and crashing.’
On November 21, the Yukon Hospital Corporation CEO told the Legislative Assembly that even with cost containment measures recently imposed – which have capped medical imaging and cut surgeries – the Yukon Hospital Corporation is trending toward an operational deficit as high as $6 Million for the current fiscal year. He also indicated that the wait time for non-urgent mammography cancer screening is expected to increase to 35 months because of the cost containment measures.
The Yukon Party has raised the issue of chronic underfunding of the Yukon Hospital Corporation for years, while the Minister of Health has repeatedly dismissed the facts as ‘misinformation’. The recent report done by Ernst and Young confirms that during the last four fiscal years, Yukon Hospital Corporation has suffered from a ‘chronic cash flow and operating shortfall.’
“Health professionals and patients are already feeling the impact of the Liberal cuts to hospital services,” added Cathers. “This situation is incredibly serious, and the Liberals continue to underfund our hospitals while the health of Yukoners is being directly impacted by their cuts to surgical services and diagnostic procedures.”
The CEO of the Yukon Hospital Corporation said this in the Legislative Assembly:
“Mr. Bilsky: To summarize, our financial results for the six months ending September 30, 2023 is a deficit of $2.9 million. We are trending at this point — and it depends on how successful we are — toward somewhere between $4.5 million and $6 million by year-end. As we said, we can categorize in those five themes the pressures that we are facing after six months: pressure on employee costs; volumes and pressure increases on surgical services; increased volume complexity of testing; and escalating costs and inflationary costs in chemotherapy.”
(Hansard, page 4544, November 21, 2023)
The report by Ernst and Young includes this finding:
“It is clear from the analysis that steps need to be taken collaboratively to address the YHC’s chronic cash flow and operating shortfall.”
(Government and financial management review of the Yukon Hospital Corporation, Ernst and Young, page 13)