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Whitehorse hospital experiencing delays, long wait times

Yukon Hospital Corporation spokesperson says to expect “this is a new reality”
A sign directs visitors to the emergency department and public parking at the Whitehorse General Hospital on April 5. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Patients at Whitehorse General Hospital are seeing delays and longer wait times.

On May 8 and 9, the hospital tweeted those seeking care should expect and plan for it to take longer to get a scheduled appointment, have walk-in bloodwork or X-rays completed, and be seen in the emergency department for less urgent needs.

The hospital said it is facing the same staffing challenges in the health-care sector which is seen across Canada.

James Low, a spokesperson for the Yukon Hospital Corporation said the hospital is currently seeing delays in providing scheduled appointments for less urgent CT and MRI scans, ultrasound, mammography and physio/occupational therapy, longer times for bloodwork, lab tests and X-ray completion and longer wait times in the emergency department.

“The delays are being caused by staffing challenges, increased demand for services and sustained trends of high occupancy/limited bed availability,” he said.

“These specific challenges are not new, but the hospital is now at a point where it cannot avoid increased delays or wait times.”

Low said longer wait times are generally seen from referral to treatment or procedure. He explained that at the emergency department, for instance, the urgency of your need is assessed and you “may wait some time to be seen; you are referred for an MRI and you may wait some time before your scheduled appointment; or you are referred for a surgical procedure and you may wait some time before you have the surgery performed.”

He noted that wait times are determined by urgency with the most urgent needs being prioritized before non-urgent.

Before now, wait times for a non-urgent CT scan would be approximately two months, but today it would be closer to three or four months, he said.

“In the past, you may have been fortunate to wait for an hour or two in an emergency, but today it is likely to be several hours or more in some cases especially for non-emergency needs,” he said.

He said turnaround times are generally used to describe the time from getting in the queue for blood work or lab tests and X-rays to having blood drawn or test completed.

“In the past, turnaround times for blood work may have been 10 minutes, but today are closer to an hour or more,” he said.

“Wait times and turnaround times vary from service to service — some we track and some we don’t. Some times change on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, particularly in the emergency department.”

When the News asked about the Watson Lake and Dawson hospitals, Low said they are not seeing the challenge at the moment but the situation could change.

“All Yukon’s hospitals are impacted to some extent by the same challenges, particularly with respect to health human resources,” he said.

“There are simply not enough skilled health providers to meet the need across the country. We have been able to avoid significant disruption to hospital services in the communities, but continue to focus on short- and long-term staffing strategies.”

Low said community hospitals in the territory provide support when the Whitehorse hospital is full.

“From time to time, when we experience limited bed availability in Whitehorse, we may transfer patients to a community hospital when there is capacity and it’s safe and appropriate to do so,” he said.

Low said the reason they are communicating with Yukoners about these service delays and longer wait times is because they want to be “open with the public about what to expect before they get to the hospital, so they can plan accordingly, and where possible, we can avoid further frustration.”

He told the News that hospital management wants visitors to know blood work will likely take an hour or more and suggests going at times when they are typically less busy.

“Yukoners have high expectations of their hospitals,” Low said.

“Our team has high expectations, too. They are working hard to provide the best possible care every time. But conditions within the hospitals have shifted to a point where we need to shift some expectations of the hospitals. Yukon’s hospitals are busier and experiencing challenges seen nation-wide. Yukoners may not always get in/out of hospital quickly for blood work or have a short wait in the emergency department.”

The team at the hospital is working to ensure that acute or urgent needs continue to be met and this means that some less urgent needs will have to be addressed over a longer period of time.

“We should expect that this is a new reality,” he said.

“We acknowledge that this is frustrating and not where any of us want to be. We also ask for understanding. These challenges are outside the control of our nurses, physicians, lab and imaging techs and others. Please be kind to your health-care provider.”

Health advice is available by dialing 811.

“Do not delay or avoid coming to the hospital if you need urgent care. In an emergency, dial 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.”

Contact Patrick Egwu at

Patrick Egwu

About the Author: Patrick Egwu

I’m one of the newest additions at Yukon News where I have been writing about a range of issues — politics, sports, health, environment and other developments in the territory.
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