Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for February 28, 2013

Hospitals were needed, feisty Fentie insists

Former premier Dennis Fentie is questioning the legitimacy of the auditor general’s report which found significant failings in the planning for the Watson Lake and Dawson City hospitals.

By Ainslie Cruickshank on February 28, 2013 at 3:27 pm


Photo by Whitehorse Star

Pictured Above: DENNIS FENTE

Former premier Dennis Fentie is questioning the legitimacy of the auditor general’s report which found significant failings in the planning for the Watson Lake and Dawson City hospitals.

The audit, released Tuesday, found that the Yukon Hospital Corp. did not conduct a full assessment of the communities’ health care needs prior to starting construction on the hospitals.

Without the assessment, it was unable to demonstrate that the hospitals are the most cost-effective option for meeting the health care needs in Watson and Dawson.

Fentie, who was premier when the projects were undertaken, begged to differ.

“You should ask the auditor general why over 30 years of a hospital being in service in a community is not considered evidence of need,” Fentie said in a phone interview this morning from Watson Lake, the town he represented as an NDP and Yukon Party MLA from 1996 to 2011.

“The number of patient days and beds in use in the Watson Lake cottage hospital, built by the federal government, by the way, in the 1970s, is all available, and it’s quite significant the number of beds that were in use over those three decades in that facility.

“We got our health care needs survey from doctors here, and the amount of patient days spent in a hospital in Watson Lake for three decades,” said Fentie, who served as the territory’s premier from 2002 to 2011.

The auditors found that while it seemed the corporation had spent a fair amount of time in the communities while planning the hospitals, it could not provide any analysis that it conducted of the health care needs.

Fentie had not read the audit prior to speaking with the Star.

“Never seen the report, and frankly could care less,” he said.

The auditor general doesn’t live here in the territory, he noted, let alone the communities in question.

“It’s just another bureaucratic report that gets done,” said Fentie.

“But the fact of the matter is, people live in these communities. Access to a reasonable standard of health care should be available to them.”

In response to queries seeking his opinion on the auditor’s concern that the corporation could not demonstrate the hospitals are the most cost-effective method of providing health care in the communities, Fentie asked:

“Since when did health care needs become dependent on what it might cost to take care of a heart attack or an accident on the highway…?

“When they happen, they happen; you gotta deliver the health care,” he said.

“I don’t dispute what auditors do; they’re bean counters, but when people live in communities like this and experience it, then they know what the needs are, and that’s exactly what the decision was based on: demonstrated need.

“There’s always problems in planning and construction and designing and it goes on and on and on, but at the end of the day, yeah, the decision was the right one, based on demonstrated need,” said Fentie.

The ex-premier has been known to take on auditors-general previously.

Several years ago, when former auditor general Sheila Fraser said his government violated the territorial Financial Administration Act when it dedicated $36 million to asset-backed commercial paper investments, Fentie said her conclusion represented little more than her opinion.

See sidebar below; commentaries.

By Ainslie Cruickshank
Star Reporter

Audit’s recommendations at a glance

The audit released Tuesday recommends that before beginning any future capital projects, the Yukon Hospital Corp.:

• “carry out a needs assessment, a risk assessment, and an options analysis (including how the projects will be funded);

• collaborate with the Department of Health and Social Services to ensure that it is aware of any potential impacts on the Yukon health care system and on the funding of the corporation by the department;

• establish reasonable budget and completion dates for its projects to ensure they are adhered to; and

• ensure that both capital and incremental operating costs are known before proceeding.”

CommentsAdd a comment


Feb 28, 2013 at 4:32 pm

yeah, ‘needed’ to repay political favors.

Arn Anderson

Feb 28, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Hey, if Fentie said we needed those hosiptals, then I’m pretty sure he is right. I mean, who am I or who are you to question what this society elected from its best cream of the crop.

Lorraine Nixon

Feb 28, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Statistics for one year Apr 1 2011 - March 31, 2012 Medical Clinic

66.6 patients per day seen.  Area serviced nearly 1000 km of Alaska, Robert Campbell Hwy, Highway 37.  Watson Lake Hospital Admissions 314, Emergency Dept Visits 1781

?? The auditor general questions a needs assessment for services provided.. We deliver front line medical services…no one asked for our statistics or input.  As for risk assessment…the answer to that question is obvious….if you are involved in a serious MVA or having a heart attack the risks are pretty high that you will not survive without hospital acute care!  Monies spent on these kinds of audits would be better spent on the actual delivery of health care!

flying fur

Mar 1, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Lorraine:  60 patients a day seen in Watson Lake?  No way is that accurate.  You must be joking.  And your point about an MVA in or around WL; true, but if that was the measure we’d have 30 hospitals spread across the Yukon given that distance from care is an issue in terms of survivability.  May be true but we don’t build hospitals on that statistic alone.  Fentie glad-handed these hospitals and particularly the one in WL.

bobby bitman

Mar 1, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Lorraine, the question is not whether health care should be delivered, but whether these tens of millions of dollars spent on new hospitals were the only or best options for delivering that health care.  Emotional arguments about saving lives in remote motor vehicle accidents do not constitute an answer to this reasonable question from Canada’s auditor general.  You and Dennis need to give more credit to the intelligence of the average Yukoner than that.

Typo in the headline:

Mar 2, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Typo in the headline:

Hospitals were needed (to buy votes), feisty Fentie insists


Mar 4, 2013 at 9:28 pm

How ironic that you people from Whitehorse seem to know what is best and what really happens in rural Yukon.  Give me a break.  We needed an upgrade to our hospital in Watson Lake. That would have cost more than a new one.  Have any of you folks been to our old hospital?  Probably not.  It is so out of code and has many problems.  As a matter of fact those problems existed from the beginning and we never heard a peep fron an Auditor General when the Feds were responsible. 
I love those reports coming from someone that is only looking at figures and not the human and social side of things.  We deserve a new hospital and when I see what a new school will cost in Whitehorse really health care is lower than schools. Give me a break Whitehorse.  Come and spend time in the communities to see what Yukon life is really about and by the way Ms Nixons stats are correct.

Fred Norris

Mar 4, 2013 at 11:03 pm

One should count his lucky stars as well as keep one’s mouth shut, considering the many other “beans” the auditor general could be counting. First, millions of tax dollars wasted on the commercial paper deal you fell for (also known as derivatives fraud), now this hospital ruckus.
Keep talking, Dennis. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

stan hollway

Mar 5, 2013 at 11:50 am

Fentie had not read the audit prior to speaking with the Star.

“Never seen the report, and frankly could care less,” he said.

The auditor general doesn’t live here in the territory, he noted, let alone the communities in question.”

Giving Fentie a soapbox is like giving Mulroney media coverage. Fentie should go back into quiet retirement, Mulroney should be in court for perjury and Airbus.

stan rogers

Mar 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

Fentie should not be speaking to the media. He was an embarrassment to politicians, similar to Brian Mulroney.


Mar 5, 2013 at 6:30 pm

“But the fact of the matter is, people live in these communities. Access to a reasonable standard of health care should be available to them.”

Are you kidding me!?!? Access to a reasonable standard of care should be available to people in Whitehorse! You don’t even have equipment up here to help people (you have to send away for it leaving people to suffer) and you are talking about some community that does not have very many people. Give your head a shake…oh, and start giving a damn.

Lorraine Nixon

Mar 5, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Flying Fur….

Contact the government of Yukon Health & Social Services to confirm these statistics. I didn’t just pull them out of my hat!!!  These stats are based on numbers submitted for insured health care benefits to the Yukon Health Care Insurance Plan.  The numbers do not include third party services provided to the individuals, corporations, insurance companies, lawyers, WCB etc.  You haven’t got a clue about the services delivered to Watson Lake and surrounding area… Do your research.. 

The best option to providing this level of service includes a “hospital” that delivers acute care services, long term care for our seniors, detox drug and alcohol treatment facillities, chemotherapy, care for chronic disease management, pre & postal natal care and delivery and inpatient hospital care within the community.  This is the most cost effective method of delivering front line service.  The alternative is medevacing everyone to Whitehorse!  ?? at what cost…  Research your stats…

When the hand of God touches your shoulder or someone near and dear to you requiring emergency acute care you’ll sing a different tune!  Sitting comfortably in WH spouting off about what is good for the communities is easy to do!  Come walk a mile in our shoes!

Political patronage my Aunt Fanny!


Mar 5, 2013 at 7:12 pm

I wonder how much time, if any, the Auditor General’s office spent in either community asking what the locals thought of the situation.  I lived in Watson Lake for a couple of years in the early 90s and the hospital there was old and dingy even back then.  Maybe there wasn’t a full health needs assessment done before the hospitals were budgeted and built, but an obsolete building is an obsolete building, period.

Far too much public money is wasted on unnecessary things, pandering to whiny special interest groups.  I, for one, consider new hospitals to be a good use of our tax dollars.


Mar 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm

It is definitely better to built hospitals, rather than the posh resort jails in Whitehorse.

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