The Yukon government has allocated $1 million in the 2019-20 budget for the planning and design of a new secure medical unit at Whitehorse General Hospital, pictured above. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

UPDATED: YHC says new Whitehorse secure medical unit in “pre-planning” stage, Frost says planning and design underway

The Yukon’s 2019-20 budget allocated $1M towards the “planning and design” of a new unit

The Yukon government has allocated $1 million in the 2019-20 budget for the “planning and design” of a new secure medical unit at Whitehorse General Hospital, but whether that work has already begun is unclear.

The project is still in its “early/pre-planning” phase, Department of Health and Social Services spokesperson Clarissa Wall wrote in an email March 19, and as such, there is no project timeline available.

In a separate email, Yukon Hospital Corporation (YHC) spokesperson Matt Davidson wrote that the $1 million in the budget will support “extensive pre-planning work,” which includes “developing a business case to support functional planning, developing a staffing plan, and making projections for O&M (operations and maintenance) and equipment costs.”

He also confirmed that, at the moment, the empty space above the new emergency room is the only potential location being considered for the unit.

However, in the legislative assembly March 26, Yukon Party MLA Patti McLeod pointed out that last year, the YHC had told the house that it had “done detailed functional planning” for the unit, and had created “schematic designs and options associated, as well as high-level costing.”

“Since the Hospital Corporation told us last year that extensive planning has already taken place — including functional planning and even designs — we are wondering what $1 million for planning this year is for?” McLeod asked.

In response, Yukon Minister of Health and Social Services Pauline Frost said the YHC is “planning for the development of an improved secure medical unit at Whitehorse General Hospital to replace the existing secure medical unit, which does not currently meet patient and safety standards.”

“We provided the hospital with $1 million to set out detailed plans and design the size, scope, services and number of beds required for this new program,” she said, adding that “planning and design work has begun.”

In a follow-up interview March 26, Davidson said that from the YHC’s perspective, the project’s current phase “would be best described as pre-planning” as it still needs to be approved by the YHC board and Yukon government before it enters a “more constructive planning phase.”

The YHC is “optimistic and quite confident” that the project will be approved, he added.

Asked about Frost’s comments that the current secure medical unit “does not currently meet patient and safety standards,” Davidson said that neither staff nor patients are at risk in the space.

The unit, however, could be “optimized.”

“It could be larger, it could have a lounge, it could have a meal area, it could have a medication room … Patients and staff are safe and secure. It could always be optimized and improved, much like we did with the emergency department. Like, it’s safe, secured. it could be improved and that’s what we’re looking to do,” Davidson said.

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

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