Minister of Health and Social Services Pauline Frost talks to media at the legislative assembly building on April 18. The Department of Health and Social Services has identified 14 internal improvements during the first phase of a comprehensive review on health and social programs and services offered across the territory. (Julien Gignac/Yukon News)

First phase of Yukon health and social programs and services review finds 14 improvements

Improvements include allowing for flexible staffing models, cutting back cell phone plan costs

The Yukon’s Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) has released a list of 14 internal improvements identified during the first phase of a larger comprehensive review.

The improvements, made public in a press release May 9, include allowing for social assistance clients to receive payments via direct deposit, allowing prescriptions to be transferred digitally between prescribers and pharmacies and cutting down on cellphone costs.

The press release did not say when the improvements would be implemented. However, in an email May 10, HSS spokesperson Pat Living wrote that the department will be working on all of the improvements over this fiscal year.

“We expect to make progress on every one,” Living wrote. “Final dates of implementation will be (determined) project by project.”

The department identified the improvements after collecting and reviewing internal program information, as well as previous reports and reviews, between fall 2018 and January of this year. It was the first phase of HSS’s comprehensive review, which will see an independent expert panel evaluating how efficiently health and social programs and services are delivered across the territory.

The panel is expected to provide a final report on its findings and recommendations, if any, in March 2020.

Other improvements include allowing clinical psychologists employed by the continuing care division to work in other divisions (which Living said speaks “to the flexibility of redeploying staff to meet a specific need); streamlining HSS’s accounts payable process; creating a simplified online directory of HSS programs and services; “modernized digital approvals;” aligning health care cards with driver’s licenses; allowing continuing care residents to pay fees via pre-authorized debits; an enhanced privacy impact assessment process; better and more supports for people transitioning off social assistance; addressing the issue of pension solvency within the Yukon Hospital Corporation; reviewing procurement processes; and introducing “flexible staffing models.”

Living said the latter “is not a reduction or increase in staff nor does it impact hours of work or shifts.”

“We are looking to be able to move staff to meet unexpected pressures within the department,” she wrote.

On the improvement of reviewing procurement processes, Living wrote that, for example, multiple programs, such as continuing care, community nursing, mental wellness and substance use, currently purchase their own medications.

“By working together and with the hospital, we can have a greater economy of scale,” she explained.

HSS is now entering the next phase of the comprehensive review, which will see a public engagement process asking Yukoners to provide their feedback on their experiences with health and social programs and services. The online discussion portion is available at engageyukon.ca, while in-person and public meetings are scheduled to take place next month.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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