The Whitehorse General Hospital, seen Aug. 2, is postponing scheduled surgeries as a result of staff illnesses and recruitment issues. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

The Whitehorse General Hospital, seen Aug. 2, is postponing scheduled surgeries as a result of staff illnesses and recruitment issues. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Whitehorse hospital continuing to put off scheduled surgeries

Recent staff illnesses, recruitment challenges blamed for postponements

About a dozen scheduled surgeries are continuing to be postponed each day as a result of staffing shortfalls at the Whitehorse General Hospital.

The Whitehorse hospital is in a difficult place, much like generally all hospital and health systems across Canada when it comes to “critical” health staffing constraints, according to a Yukon Hospitals spokesperson.

“Yukon’s hospitals are not immune,” James Low said by email on Aug. 9.

Most recently, as reported by the News in July, staffing shortages due to illness and recruitment are being experienced in the surgical services area, which is affecting minor procedures, surgery and instrument and device sterilization at the Whitehorse hospital.

“Even one vacancy for any amount of time has the potential to cause disruption to services” given the “fairly small” size of some teams, Low explained.

Recruitment issues in early July led to the postponement of scheduled surgeries, Low said, adding that the hospital is working toward resuming a regular surgery schedule following the initial slowdown.

More recently, a number of staff illnesses set the surgeries schedule back off track for at least a couple more weeks.

“This means that for every day we have to postpone procedures, we’ll have more Yukoners waiting for their surgery to be rescheduled,” Low said.

“By reducing or postponing scheduled surgeries during periods with staffing challenges, it allows the hospital to maintain capacity to provide safe care and respond to emergencies cases.”

According to Yukon Hospital’s job board, as of Aug. 12, there are 30 vacancies across the board.

The job board includes an opening in the department of surgical services for a registered nurse in the operating room, as well as five registered nurses and a licensed practical nurse in the surgical and medical departments.

It also shows vacancies for nurses in emergency, mental health, the secure medical unit, the intensive care unit, Watson Lake Community Hospital and Dawson City, in addition to other postings from pharmacy technicians to cooks and custodial workers.

The hospital system hires and functions independently from the government, hence having its own job board.

The government is also looking to fill health-sector positions in the capital and across the territory.

As of Aug. 12, the Yukon government’s job board has 29 vacancies for positions that fall under the department of Health and Social Services across the territory.

That number includes openings for nurse practitioners in Whitehorse and Carmacks health centres; primary health care nurses in Carcross, Carmacks, Mayo and Ross River health centres, as well as a nurse in charge at the Beaver Creek Health Centre and a float in community nursing; a pandemic community health nurse for Yukon Communicable Disease Control; licensed practical nurses at the Referred Care Clinic and Whistle Bend Place; several different areas of social workers; and a mental health support worker for the Haines Junction Hub.

In an email, the department noted there may be more vacancies than advertised given the time taken to process staffing requests.

Contact Dana Hatherly at