Project director Karen Girling gives a tour of the new wing of the Whitehorse General Hospital. The new emergency department will see its first patients on Jan. 9. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse’s new emergency room slated to open in early January

40,000-square-foot building will be more efficient, officials say

Whitehorse General Hospital’s new emergency department will be ready to see patients Jan. 9.

Officials snipped the ceremonial ribbon this week on the new $72-million, 40,000-square-foot building.

Karen Girling, the hospital corporation’s director of projects, said hospital staff will be spending the next few weeks getting more training on the new systems and making sure all the rooms are stocked and ready to go.

The new building is designed to be more efficient, she said.

Now, the first person a patient interacts with will be a triage nurse. Previously patients would have had to register first. Now the nurse will do a quick assessment and prioritize patients.

That’s considered a national best practice, Girling said.

“In our old space we were really challenged for that because registration was at one end of the atrium and (emergency) is at the other end.”

It also got a technology upgrade. Each room now has its own computer station to track a patient’s files.

The 17 rooms include ones specifically designed for patients who need to be isolated and one “safe room” for people in a mental health or drug-related crisis.

“It’s a room that has the capability to be used as a general exam room or converted into a room where you can’t do self-harm. We can monitor you through closed circuit TV,” Girling said.

There’s also a second trauma bay.

A final decision hasn’t been made yet on the future of the building’s second floor. The Yukon Hospital Corporation did a needs assessment and expanding the hospital’s secure medical unit was the number one priority, said hospital spokesperson James Low.

“We think this is what we should do, but now we have to go through a process to say, ‘Can we actually do it and what would it take to actually do it?’” he said.

The hospital needs to complete a business case analysis and get funding approval from the health department, he said.

After the new emergency department opens, the old entrance will become a door for non-emergency hospital business. It will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

The old ER is slated to be converted into space for the operating room department.

The public has a chance to look around the new facility on Dec. 16. The Yukon Hospital Corporation is hosting an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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