After only three months, a new 12-bed unit at Copper Ridge Place was forced to close at the end of January because the territory failed to recruit adequate staff.
“We had hired seven new staff members,” said Health and Social Services spokesperson Pat Living.
“They had not yet started, but they were committed to coming to the Yukon and, before they got here, about half of them changed their minds.
“We don’t know why.”
A shortage of nurses has forced many to work extra shifts and to log substantial overtime.
Nurses have told the News that stressful working conditions are deterring new nurses from moving North.
The new unit at Copper Ridge Place offered 12 more extended-care beds.
In the three months that it was open only three patients were moved into the unit.
“It was very slow,” said Living.
“You’re bringing people in from their homes or from the hospital, so you’re not going to move a bunch of new people into a facility and expect them to be able to cope.”
The three individuals already in the nursing home were moved to available spaces in other units.
However, the remaining nine patients that were expecting to move into the unit are out of luck — Copper Ridge is currently completely full.
Living was unable to say whether these nine patients and others on the waiting list for long-term beds were waiting at home or at the hospital.
The extra beds were announced in May after the Yukon Medical Association shed light on a crisis at Whitehorse General Hospital.
At the time, seniors waiting for a bed in a long-term facility occupied nearly 30 per cent of the hospital’s beds, according to association president Dr. Rao Tadepalli.
It costs about three times more to house an elderly person at the hospital than at a nursing home.
As well, placing long-term-care patients at the hospital puts more stress on staff.
It is uncertain when the extra long-term-care unit can reopen again, if at all.
“We are continuing to look for new nurses,” said Living.
“Continuing care’s been to, I think, four job fairs in March, so we’re continuing our efforts to hire new staff.
“We thought we had everything in place and ready to go,” said Living.
“And it was not to be.”
The waiting list for long-term beds currently stands at 13 people, said Living.
Only two of these people are currently waiting for beds at Copper Ridge Place.
The other 11 patients hope to get into Macaulay Lodge, which is a lower-level care facility.
Government to consult on medical profession act
Community Services is making proposed amendments to the Medical Profession Act available for public comment.
The law governs the registration and licensing of physicians respecting their education and qualification, professional conduct, discipline and offences.
The amendments will reflect advancements in clinical knowledge and professional standards.
These changes will enhance public safety and medical care in the Yukon, said Community Services Minister Glenn Hart.
The amendments will also enhance recruitment and retention of physicians.
The department would like to hear all Yukoners’ views as well as those of professionals from within the health-care system.
Information on the consultation is available at www.community.gov.yk.ca.