Health Minister Pauline Frost, left, and MP Larry Bagnell, announce plans for millions of dollars in health funding from the territorial and federal governments during a press conference in Whitehorse on July 25, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon unveils plans for millions in promised health funding

‘What we’re trying to do through innovation is bring the supports to the communities’

Officials with the Yukon Department of Health and Social Services laid out their plans July 25 for millions of dollars worth of cash Ottawa has promised.

Territorial officials announced some details about how the government will spend $25.6 million from the Territorial Health Investment Fund until March 2021 and $5.2 million over five years as part of a separate bilateral agreement between Ottawa and the Yukon.

Highlights include hiring a mental health nurse for the emergency department at Whitehorse General Hospital to assess patients and determine if admission to the hospital is right for them.

According to the bilateral agreement, the nurse will “redirect and coordinate referrals to community programs and provide other needed supports for individuals presenting at the hospital with a mental health and/or addiction issue.”

The nurse has been in place for the last few months, said Michele Goshulak, assistant deputy minister of corporate services.

The government will also expand home care and continue the Home First program — aimed at getting patients out of hospital beds and back to their homes — until at least 2022.

“We know from our data that we are putting people into long-term care homes like Whistle Bend twice as long as the national average and that’s in part because home care services had not been available to the extend that they’re needed,” said deputy minister Stephen Samis.

“So we are going to be enhancing the Home First program.”

Samis said the government will spend $2.1 million per year to offset the government’s costs for medical travel.

“Medical travel’s rising every year very, very fast, much higher than other parts of the health budget so this is to offset those increases.” he said.

Samis said increasing money given to individuals travelling Outside for care “hasn’t been looked at yet.”

As opposed to giving individuals more money for augmenting their travel costs, Health Minister Pauline Frost said the government is trying to be “as innovative and creative as we can be.”

“What we’re trying to do through innovation is bring the supports to the communities. So (we’re providing) easier access to information, easier access to history and to allow specialized services to come to the communities hence reducing true medical travel costs.”

Goshulak said the government will continue a program that allows patients in the communities to connect online with their doctors in Whitehorse. The home health monitoring program for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will also be continued. Both were previously pilot programs.

Samis said about $6 million to $7 million is set to be spent on upgrades to the territory’s health technology systems.

“That will allow a lot more remote medicine, a lot more home-based care, a lot more tele-medicine, so that people stay in their communities and don’t have to travel out. That’s an example of one major investment we will be making to really bring our health information system up to the 21st century standards.”

Goshulak said some of the money will go to training for the Yukon’s mental health health workers and to improve the department’s data analysis.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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