Just because you can build it, doesn’t mean you should

Just because you can build it, doesn't mean you should Open letter re Yukon Hospital Corporation financial responsibility: There can be little doubt that the Yukon Hospital Corporation is the current golden child of the government. John Thompson's articl

Open letter re Yukon Hospital Corporation financial responsibility:

There can be little doubt that the Yukon Hospital Corporation is the current golden child of the government. John Thompson’s article in the Wednesday News hit the high points, but one thing that hasn’t been publicized is the cost effectiveness of the spending in terms of the infrastructure achieved.

In other words, even if we needed the rural hospitals instead of a more community driven health-care system, are the buildings good value? Those hospitals aren’t underway yet, but let’s consider a probable future based on the nurses’ residence going up on Hospital Road.

I’m not sure where the current cost stands, but the construction budget was about $15 million. Let’s be clear: a nurses’ residence with some doctors’ offices is not rocket science. These aren’t medical facilities. It’s apartments and offices.

From recent experience on some four-storey buildings I’ve been involved with, I can tell you the per square foot cost was about 30 per cent of the nurses’ residence purported cost. Allowing a bit extra for inflation and other factors, that indicates that the residence might have been constructed for around $6 million, not $15 million. Is the public getting value?

Plain cost-to-construct is one thing. The issue of whether or not the rural hospitals fulfill the local community needs is another.

It’s been widely reported that Watson Lake would favour prevention treatments. Dawson City already has in-patient beds that are not used. If you build an expensive facility, it better serve an actual need.

There’s no denying that rural communities deserve good health care, in proportion to the type and quantity of need. Constructing facilities that are expensive to build, much more expensive to operate and must attract staff (nursing shortage, remember?), as a gamble based on the whims of junior mining companies certainly seems to be throwing the dice in a big way.

Even if the mine openings become reality, consider a serious accident at a minesite. Once the person is in the aircraft, do you take them to Watson or Dawson or to Whitehorse? The “golden hour” of care is probably long gone by the time they’re in flight, so let’s fly to the facility with the best chance of successful treatment.

The doctors, nurses and staff working in health care in the Yukon are talented, dedicated and deserve good facilities to provide for the public. That’s not in question. The type, usefulness and cost of the facilities being proposed very much is. Too bad it seems to be too late, and we’re going to get what Big Daddy wants to give us.

Oh, that ad the hospital corporation is running regarding, “If one-third of Yukoners gave only $10 per month” we’d have donations to buy extra equipment? How about turning that around and saying that if the corporation hadn’t wasted millions on an abortive attempt to build the Watson Lake hospital, the public could have that new equipment and not donate a dime for five years.

Just because you’re the golden child shouldn’t give you carte blanche to spend all the gold in the territory along with a bunch of future gold you’re borrowing.

Charles McLaren

Whitehorse