Get family consent before moving patients to other hospitals: NDP critic

‘Where is the respect and where is the dignity?’

The NDP’s Kate White took the health minister to task this week over the hospital corporation’s decision to force patients to move from Whitehorse General Hospital to hospitals in the communities.

The ability to move patients with or without their consent goes against their right to be treated with respect and dignity, White told minister Pauline Frost Nov. 9 in the Yukon Legislative Assembly.

“Where is the respect and where is the dignity in forcing a patient to be transferred hours away from family without their consent?” White asked.

Overcrowding at Whitehorse General Hospital has meant about four patients per month are being moved by the Yukon Hospital Corporation to the community hospitals in either Dawson City and Watson Lake.

Representatives for the hospital corporation have said that while patients and their families are informed about the possibility of a move, and their concerns are considered, the decision to move someone is based on clinical criteria decided by a doctor.

They argue that moving a patient from the crowded beds in Whitehorse where the hospital has at times been over capacity to the less-used community beds is a way to use resources more effectively. But the move has forced some patients further from their families.

The News has reported on the case of Fred Brown, a grandfather from outside of Haines Junction who was moved from the Whitehorse to the hospital in Watson Lake. Brown’s wife and family have raised concerns about how the decision to move the 83-year-old who has dementia and hearing problems was made.

White said her office has been hearing from other concerned seniors.

“We spoke to another senior at the hospital who saw the elder they were sharing a room with being transferred against their will to another hospital. The patient was expressing verbally that they didn’t want to go, as they were moved on to a stretcher and transferred out of the room,” White said.

“The senior who witnessed this was understandably upset, and now they are constantly worried that the same thing could happen to them at any point.

“Mr. Speaker, what happened to the rights of patients and how is this acceptable? Will the minister immediately direct the hospital corporation to respect its own statement of patient rights and stop transferring patients against their will to community hospitals?”

Frost would only promise to follow-up with the department.

“If a patient requires care, they receive it either at the Whitehorse General Hospital, Dawson City or Watson Lake. Oftentimes we transport them outside of the community. The patient’s physician works in collaboration, and I’m hoping, as indicated, that this is done with the family and that informed consent and collaboration is followed through on and that the necessary supports are there,” she said.

“If we are moving patients, I will commit that we will look at ensuring that family members are part of that process.”

Earlier in the week Frost said her department has offered Brown’s family “support to visit the patient in Watson Lake.”

White denied that was true.

“We have spoken to numerous family members of this individual, and no one has been offered support to visit their family member at the Watson Lake Hospital,” she said.

Brown’s granddaughter, White said, had hitchhiked to see her grandfather and was now sleeping in a chair at his bedside.

“No one we spoke to in the family was offered any support by the hospital corporation or by the government to visit the patient at the Watson Lake hospital.”

After question period Frost told reporters support for patients’ families can include food or giving them a bed to sleep in at the hospital.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

Yukon Hospital CorporationYukon legislative assemblyYukon politics