Territory scrambles to offer long term care beds

The Yukon Department of Health and Social Services is looking for spaces to convert into makeshift temporary long-term care facilities, but they're being tight-lipped about any details.

The Yukon Department of Health and Social Services is looking for spaces to convert into makeshift temporary long-term care facilities, but they’re being tight-lipped about any details.

The Yukon government is in the early stages of building a new 150- to 300-bed continuing care facility somewhere in Whitehorse. In the meantime, more than 50 people are sitting on the wait-list to get a bed.

Health spokesperson Pat Living said some of those people are staying at home while others are at Whitehorse General Hospital.

“We are looking at other options within the community,” Living said, but refused to say what possible locations are being considered.

Decisions will be made “in a timely fashion,” she said.

On average, continuing care patients use 15 to 17 of the hospital’s 55 beds, said hospital spokesperson James Low.

Living said health staff meet daily to deal with the bed issue.

Though she wouldn’t give many details about what solutions are being considered, she did say that expanding to the other side of the Thomson Centre is in the mix. Completing the required renovations to get everything up to code would take close to a year, she said.

The Thomson Centre originally opened in 1993 as a continuing care centre. But it has been plagued with water leaks, mould infestations and other problems.

The centre was re-opened in 2011. It was originally scheduled to have 44 beds, but more complications meant that only half of the building could be used for long-term care, with 29 beds, while the rest of the building was used for office space and other purposes.

The NDP Opposition suggested in the legislature on Wednesday that surgeries were being cancelled at the hospital because there are not enough beds available.

“This morning, Dr. Storey, a long-time Yukon surgeon, said there have been numerous occasions where surgeries have had to be cancelled at the last minute due to lack of bed space,” Health critic Jan Stick said.

“Will the minister now correct the record and tell Yukoners how many surgeries have been cancelled due to a lack of available beds at the Whitehorse General Hospital?”

Health Minister Doug Graham replied that only four surgeries have had to be cancelled so far this year.

“Three of those four cancellations were for patient-related reasons and not because a bed was not available.”

Low, the hospital corporation’s spokesman, confirmed the number. He said three of the four surgeries have been rescheduled, all within three weeks or less of their original date. The fourth hasn’t been rescheduled yet.

Whitehorse General Hospital does 2,500 to 3,000 surgeries a year, he said.

Stick continued to press the government about bed numbers.

“Dr. Storey, renowned surgeon at Whitehorse General, said that out of the 16 beds set aside for surgery and recovery, only about two are regularly available to over 35,000 people in the Yukon. He says the other 14 beds are usually filled with chronic illness patients or those waiting for long-term care,” she said.

Low said that in most cases hospital beds are not designated for one type of use.

“We utilize the beds in whatever way they need to be utilized at the time, it’s not as though a certain percentage would be dedicated to surgery.”

In the legislature, Graham said these numbers often fluctuate.

“I guess what the member doesn’t seem to understand is that the bed shortage at Whitehorse General Hospital is something that is in constant flux. One day there might be only two beds available in the surgical recovery room and the next day, there might be seven or eight,” he said.

Contact Ashley Joannou at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NDP candidate Annie Blake, left, and Liberal incumbent Pauline Frost. (Submitted photos)
Official recount confirms tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin riding

Both candidates Pauline Frost and Annie Blake are still standing with 78 votes each

Artist’s rendering of a Dairy Queen drive-thru. At its April 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved a zoning change to allow a drive-thru at 107 Range Road. Developers sought the change to build a Dairy Queen there. (Submitted)
Drive-thru approved by Whitehorse city council at 107 Range Road

Rezoning could pave the way for a Dairy Queen


Wyatt’s World for April 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

École Whitehorse Elementary Grade 7 students Yumi Traynor and Oscar Wolosewich participated in the Civix Student Vote in Whitehorse on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Yukon Student Vote chooses Yukon Party government; NDP take popular vote

The initiative is organized by national non-profit CIVIX

Yvonne Clarke is the newly elected Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre. (Submitted/Yukon Party)
Yvonne Clarke elected as first Filipina MLA in the Yukon Legislative Assembly

Clarke beat incumbent Liberal Paolo Gallina in Porter Creek Centre

Emily Tredger at NDP election night headquarters after winning the Whitehorse Centre riding. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Emily Tredger takes Whitehorse Centre for NDP

MLA-elect ready to get to work in new role

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Two new cases of COVID-19 variant identified in territory

“If variants were to get out of control in the Yukon, the impact could be serious.”

Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Most Read