Auditor general slams hospital corp.

The Yukon Hospital Corporation did a rush job planning for and carrying out the Watson Lake and Dawson City hospital projects, according to Canada's auditor general.

The Yukon Hospital Corporation did a rush job planning for and carrying out the Watson Lake and Dawson City hospital projects, according to Canada’s auditor general.

The auditors general’s report, issued yesterday, slammed the hospital corporation for not establishing the need for both projects before proceeding with construction. The report also criticized the corporation for shoddy record-keeping on how it planned to spend $72 million in public money on three projects – the two hospitals and the Crocus Ridge staff residence in Whitehorse.

Essentially, no one bothered to record what planning was done, assistant auditor general Ronnie Campbell told reporters on Tuesday.

“The thing is, that maybe they got the right answer. They don’t know and we don’t know because they didn’t do the analysis that would give them that answer,” he said.

The corporation can’t prove that it listened to the needs of Yukoners when it was planning the project, Campbell said. The report also found that higher-than-expected operating costs will likely increase the overall costs of providing health care in the two communities. All three projects are also over budget and behind schedule, which raises serious concerns, Campbell said.

“As an auditor we can’t talk about (the planning) without talking about the money, and $72 million is a lot of public money, so there’s an obligation to make sure that taxpayers are getting the best bang for their buck,” he said.

“Before entering into a project such as this, you really need to make sure that this is what you need, and this is the best way of meeting those needs. It’s quite clear that this was a political decision,” Campbell said.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson said she wasn’t surprised by the report.

“It’s consistent with what we’ve been saying for unfortunately a very long time with respect to the issues of health care and health-care planning in this territory. The territorial government has a good record of spending money, but doesn’t seem to have a good overall vision for what effective health care is for a territory of 35,000 people,” she said.

Hanson said the report points to problems that were raised in the territory’s health audit done two years ago.

“We have decisions being taken but without evidence, without a business case or plan being made,” she said.

Klondike Liberal MLA Sandy Silver was equally concerned by the report, but to him the money lost by bad planning is only part of the concern.

The hospital corporation didn’t listen to Dawson City’s concerns, and now it has saddled itself with an expensive facility that will be difficult to staff, Silver said.

“Let’s say we open in May (the current estimated opening date could be as far away as July). What’s keeping this thing from just closing immediately? I spoke with the mayor today, and that is a concern. The costs for operations and management were not taken into consideration. The staff recruitment part is also an issue.”

Silver said there will be many more questions for the hospital corporation and the Yukon government in the spring sitting of the legislature.

“We need to take a hard look at how this government does its consultation. There will be a commission into this afterwards. I’ve officially asked that we see Yukon Hospital Corp. appear as witnesses in the spring legislature.”

Dowland Contracting, the general contractor on the Watson Lake and Dawson City hospitals, is facing lawsuits from a number of its subcontractors. Yukon Hospital Corporation CEO Jason Bilsky said that bonding companies have been notified that Dowland is in default. He’s confident the bonding process will allow work to continue on the hospitals, though he did admit that there could still be more cost overruns and delays, especially on the Dawson project.

“This is what happens when you have a company that classically under-bids. How do we keep this project from going totally sideways?” asked Silver.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com