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Dr. Alex Poole

‘We’ve run nurses to the end of their workability’

A lack of nurses at Whitehorse General Hospital is reducing scheduled elective surgeries there through March – and one surgeon says services after that date will likely remain precarious.

By Ethan Lycan-Lang on January 27, 2023

A lack of nurses at Whitehorse General Hospital is reducing scheduled elective surgeries there through March – and one surgeon says services after that date will likely remain precarious.

The hospital will limit the number of elective surgeries performed from Feb. 13 to March 31, Yukon Hospital Corp. (YHC) spokesperson James Low confirmed in an email sent Wednesday to the Star.

“We could not secure enough nursing staff despite our best efforts to maintain the usual volume procedures we would expect to perform over this period of time,” Low wrote. 

A limited number of elective surgeries will continue during this time, Low said.

There will be no impact on the hospital’s response to emergency medical cases, he added.

Low did not indicate how many patients will be affected by the decision in the coming weeks.

There could be an impact on the health of patients waiting for surgeries and the increasingly burned-out medical professionals who perform them, says one Whitehorse General surgeon.

Dr. Alex Poole has been a surgeon at the hospital for two decades. He’s also the former president of the Yukon Medical Association, and currently sits on its board.

“We’ve run nurses to the end of their workability,” Poole said Thursday. “We’re always running with just enough nurses, and they eventually get burnt out.”

Poole noted the nursing shortage is a country-wide problem, and the nurses at Whitehorse General are experiencing serious fatigue – a big problem for hospital capacity.

“Nurses are the soul of a hospital; OR nurses are the soul of an operating room. And they’re not getting time to get their vacations to look after themselves, both physically and mentally,” he said.

“The end result has been that we’ve reached a crunch, and for at least the next six weeks, we’ve cut elective surgery in half.”

Elective surgery, Poole no-ted, doesn’t mean optional or in-nocuous surgery.

He defined it as “any operation that can wait more than a couple of days to be done.”

Cancer surgeries, Poole said, can fall under the definition of “elective” surgery.

“So this is a pretty big deal,” he said.

Hospitals are already struggling to meet the surgery needs for the territory’s current population of an estimated 44,000, Poole said, and that’s bound to get worse as the population continues to steadily grow.

He said the hospital needs upgrades to meet future demands, figuring it needs twice as many operating rooms.

“In a short decade, we need to build a new arm of our facility that’s larger, more modern and we need to staff it,” Poole said.

“We’re struggling to do half of probably what we need to do 10 years from now.”

The current main building was completed in the mid-1990s. It replaced a facility that had opened at the same location in the late 1950s but which had offered more beds.

The building currently housing the emergency ward is fairly new.

But without more investments in facility upgrades and staff recruitment, Poole said, staff burnout and service backlogs will become regular realities as the territory’s health care system is forced to react to crisis after crisis.

Reduced surgeries also affect surgeon incomes, Poole said, as surgeons, who are paid for the hours they work, now have their workload cut in half.

The YHC said patients affected by surgery delays next month will be called directly to reschedule. Postponed surgeries will likely be rescheduled for April and May.

The Star asked for an interview with YHC CEO Jason Bilsky. The request was declined.

The YHC told the Star Wednesday morning that Whitehorse General Hospital’s bed capacity was at 100 per cent.

Since Monday, the online bed tracker has been red – which signals space is extremely limited or hospital beds are full.

Comments (33)

Up 0 Down 0

ArcticBear7 on Feb 6, 2023 at 9:15 am

@healthy and happy

You must be happy because you are oblivious with your head buried in the sand.

It’s especially amusing that you refer to people saying deaths are due to the vaxx if people die in a car accident. I guess you are completely oblivious to all the deaths attributed to COVID when someone died in a car accident, or other non COVID related deaths, because they tested positive after death. Or that people who died shortly after vaccination were labeled “unvaccinated”.

I personally know about a dozen very unusual deaths among my vaccinated friends and family (and many more severe side affects of those that didn’t die). One is my MOM, and most of the others in my tiny community. Every single friend I have (a few hundred, in real life and online) has strangely lost family or friends and know of many other deaths amongst their other friends. But still, you refuse to see.

Up 8 Down 2

Jeff Bikaboom on Feb 2, 2023 at 10:13 am

@Healthy and Happy

"You do realize that the high death rates include unvaccinated people who died from covid. Not sure even you can find a way to blame the vaccine for those deaths. "

I can. People were counted as unvaccinated until 2 weeks after the second shot. Huge numbers of partially vaccinated people were counted as unvaccinated. This is the only reason the shots appeared to ever work. Covid deaths coincided with vaccine uptake and there was huge spikes during vaccine campaigns. All provinces removed this data as it was damning. It can still be found using wayback machine. In 2022 vaccinated overtook unvaccinated for covid cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. This data has also been removed in all provinces. Use wayback machine to see the exact dates this happened.

"Can you post a media article raising the point about these increased unexplained deaths?"
How about you learn how to do a search. There are literally hundreds from Canada, UK, US, Ireland. I saw recently on CBC that we are in stroke season. This comes after flu season. I saw recently on MSNBC that heart attacks are cause by the common cold. This must be true because it it left wing news, and they are the good side, and right wing are the bad side, and everyone can be categorized as being in one of these groups. Try looking for new stories in countries that have banned the shot for certain age groups. UK for example.

Up 25 Down 3

Gen-Set Blunders… on Feb 1, 2023 at 2:07 pm

I can’t imagine that there are too many millennial, or gen-zedders with either the intelligence or the psychological capacity to do the work.

We have taught our younger generations that it is easier to complain about something than it is to do something about something… There is ‘something’ wrong with people today - Seriously, effed up destroyers in an emotionally dysregulated rage…

Do you really want one of these people to be a nurse? Can you imagine idle conversations with these people about its preferred pronouns, climate hysteria, boomers, and its gender of the day talking points? Me neither - These topics already seem unrelenting and unhinged!

Up 11 Down 14

Healthy and Happy on Feb 1, 2023 at 11:28 am

@ whats-killing-yukoners?
So in your brain, the increase in death rates must automatically be attributed to the vaccine? Are you so incapable of understanding or researching factual material that you just make things up in your own mind?
I have seen numerous articles touting the increasingly high rate of opioid deaths. But it must be the vaccine right?
We have seen an increase in gang and drug related violence leading to an increase in murders. But that must also be the vaccine right?
You do realize that the high death rates include unvaccinated people who died from covid. Not sure even you can find a way to blame the vaccine for those deaths.
Just so I understand your way of thinking. Do you also include vaccinated people who may have died by car accident, or cancer or general old age in your war against the vaccine?
I'm assuming you don't get invited to a lot of parties anymore. If you don't want to take the vaccine, or didn't. That's just fine, you're a real hero. But you can put down your pitchfork and get on with your life, you're not convincing anyone new.

Up 22 Down 4

Mark on Feb 1, 2023 at 8:41 am

What a gong show! All politically brought on issue. You fire nurses for not partaking in the hoax of a lifetime, you basically blackmail the employees and then wonder why your system is failing. These nurses were and still are heros that you had no problem using until you were ordered by our failed health ministers to eliminate. Personally speaking, I hope those that went along with the blackmail ultimatum hang in there. We have lost some good nurses and doctors because of this political scam. Why should the nurses come back? The government has showed us what they are worth to them.
In Canada there are plenty of doctors and nurses who are quite capable and qualified to do the job but for some bearucratic reason can’t practice in Canada due to red tape. Like most companies,the medical system is too top heavy in management. If I want to learn about a company, I don’t talk to management, I talk to the ones really running the company …. The employees!

Up 4 Down 10

Roy on Jan 31, 2023 at 8:09 pm


Can you post a media article raising the point about these increased unexplained deaths? Feel free to use a far right tabloid like Rebel News or Breitbart if you have to. I mean if 85%+ of Americans have had the vaccine - and they have 10x as many people as we do - surely they also are being hit with 10X the unexplained deaths. It must be an epidemic of deaths far surpassing the covid virus.

Therefore surely there must be some anti-vaccine mainstream media reporting on this.
No sorry - youtube videos, substack blogs, random anecdotes from facebook don't count.

And if you can't find Rebel News reporting on it can you then explain why they are not? What's stopping them or any of these other sites even asking questions? Are they so weak as to not be able to post this news?
Why isn't the Yukon Party talking about it? Why isn't the Conservative party talking about it?

cmon dave do you have any answers do why they don't even mention it - even just as a question?

Up 38 Down 2

Juniper Jackson on Jan 30, 2023 at 6:50 pm

For a while, I was in and out of the hospital. On the wards, in ICU, in emerge in rooms and in trauma.. Nurses are such special people. There is not enough money in this world to make me want to be a nurse. For every person that was kind and thoughtful to them, there were 10 bleeding, throwing up, filling their pants, crying, complaining, drunk, drugged, or otherwise entitled. Whatever they thought, they kept it to themselves and treated everyone without judgement. And, they worked, medication, needles, blood pressures, temps, food, in addition to all of the above, on their feet, and on the go their whole shift, lucky if it was only 8 hours instead of a double.

Every politician and every hospital CEO needs a stroke or a heart attack, so they can go back to work and know just how important it is to have enough staff, and pay them properly. Every person complaining about the price of doctors and nurses needs to walk a mile.. spend 7-9 years in school, try to pay off student loans, bank loans, buy into a practice, AND try to have a family of their own.

I am not ready to die.. or be left on a trolly in a hallway. Where are our enormous income tax dollars going? No money to pay our health professionals enough money to keep up with inflation? Go on welfare and scream and government will hand over everything you want. (First thing Silver did was eliminate the welfare fraud position). Snort something up your nose? Free drugs, housing.
But, doctors and nurses are over paid and want too much. Jeez.. modern priorities are dark and twisted.

Up 28 Down 14

Whats-killing-Yukoners? on Jan 30, 2023 at 5:56 pm

The Yukon death rate has continued to increase since 2019. Compared with previous year, deaths in 2020 increased by 7.4%; in 2021 by 7.8% and in 2022 by 17.3%, The death rate in 2022 was an increase of 39% over the 2010-19 avg rate. That's significant and in line with excess mortality in other developed countries. Hospitals are overwhelmed, including WGH.
The experimental, untested C0vax was neither effective or safe and the incidence of post-vaccination injury and illness is growing. Those who chose to avoid the "jab", despite the coercive mandates, ridicule and unwarranted hostility are remarkably unaffected and in reasonably good health.
It seems somewhat strange that the govt and the media are ignoring this elephant-in-the-room issue.

Up 36 Down 0

John - with a J on Jan 30, 2023 at 1:06 pm

Well I’m pretty sure by now that everybody knows what the problems are.
Let’s identify solutions and deal with it.
P.S. whining about it is not a solution.

Up 25 Down 8

Jeff Bikaboom on Jan 30, 2023 at 10:37 am

“We’re always running with just enough nurses, and they eventually get burnt out.”

Just enough staff is how all hospitals run, this is how they are supposed to run. Because they run near 100 percent it takes basically nothing to push it over capacity. Something like a news story that puts unnecessary fear into hypocondriacs is enough. Capacity is based on beds as well as staff. So if staff are fired or sick, capacity drops. Also if wings are converted to emergency areas in anticipation of something happening, capacity drops.

The problem appears to be too many sick people. So many that the hospital needs expanded. Just like how they are expanding the morgue. The Yukon's population has grown at a steady rate for the last 20 years, so this over population issue could have been easily predicted. Was nothing done about population growth, or are people having more health issues than in the past?

Up 27 Down 16

Max Mack on Jan 30, 2023 at 6:32 am


Seems like it is WGH itself that is singling out one vaccine amongst all others.
From WGH's website:

"Full vaccination against COVID-19 is a condition of employment and privileging for Yukon Hospitals as of November 26, 2021."


Odd that no other vaccines are specified as conditions of employment, is it not?

Up 32 Down 19

DL on Jan 30, 2023 at 12:27 am

A doctor speaking on behalf of nurses...! We would really like to hear from the nurses themselves, especially the ones that were fired because they refused to take the covid jab. Regrettably, too many are unable to tell the truth for fear of punishment, such as getting their license revoked. Where are the investigative journalists?

There are so many questions about our failing healthcare system. Why is the hospital at 100% capacity at this time? How does that compare to previous years? There currently is the elephant in the room that so many health care practitioners fail (or aren't allowed) to mention: high excess deaths in countries with high rates of covid injections. So many people are requiring medical treatment for myocarditis, strokes, blood clots etc. after taking the covid jab. Which turned out to be neither safe nor effective.

Many doctors are speaking out, unfortunately mainstream media isn’t paying any attention to them.
Here’s Dr. Suneel Dhand: “95 Percent Effective: A FAILURE of the Medical Profession”

Up 38 Down 8

Whats-killing-Yukoners? on Jan 29, 2023 at 10:21 pm

North_of_60 raises an important point. The Yukon death rate relative to the previous year has continued to increase since 2019. Deaths in 2020 increased by 7.4%; in 2021 by 7.8% and in 2022 by 17.3%.
Somewhat strangely, the govt and the media are ignoring this anomaly, and at best blaming it on C0vid infections and drug overdoses. This is unusual and should be investigated. Do the local media even do that sort of thing any more?

Up 18 Down 27

Roy on Jan 29, 2023 at 6:07 pm

@Mad Max “The nurses and other staff that were forced out due to vaccine mandates were the same people that worked throughout the worst part of the pandemic, from the beginning of the outbreak in January 2020 through to and including November 2021.”

Hahaha yes! Those were the worst months of the pandemic. I agree with you 100%.
Now slowly - and calmly - ask yourself what changed - what was so different to make the pandemic not as bad after that point….
I'll give you a minute until it dawns on you.

Something that came out in the middle of 2021…..
LOL I think you got it!

And then let’s save our praise for the 99% of nurses and other staff members who not only worked between January 2020 and November 2021 - but never quit over youtube “research” and a desire for horse dewormer pills - and who did just what Pierre Polievre and Curry Dixon and Donald Trump and every other Conservative politician and every single member of Fox News did etc etc - got vaccinated for covid and went right on working.

But thanks for pointing out that the vaccines helped!
And thanks for supporting the nurses who are tired of the fringe and who think the protestors outside children’s hospitals are idiots that should be ashamed of their behavior. These nurses are the ones who out deserve praise and support.

The others made their beds. It’s a free country - you’re free to be let go if your workplace doesn’t make “special snowflake” rules just for thee.

Up 34 Down 55

Roy on Jan 29, 2023 at 3:17 pm

All this talk about the huge number of medical staff losing jobs over vaccine refusal reminds me of the same inflated numbers the fringe uses for everything - all in a vain effort to support their backwards ideas.

Check out the huge number of clown convoy supporters in Ottawa today for the reunion! There were tens of people there! Tens! LOL


I didn’t see or hear any convoy in Whitehorse this weekend - too cold for you sourdoughs? Or is it slowly dawning on you how embarrassing your behavior has been? Such a lack of dedication. Sad.

Up 29 Down 32

Yukoner1 on Jan 29, 2023 at 12:21 pm

@Max Mack: I don't see you complaining about the tuberculosis vaccination requirements that have been in place for 20, 30, 40 years? It seems that you are singling out only one vaccine and not all the others that health care professionals are required to take. Why is that? Virtue signaling at its finest?

Up 47 Down 18

Max Mack on Jan 28, 2023 at 9:55 pm


The nurses and other staff that were forced out due to vaccine mandates were the same people that worked throughout the worst part of the pandemic, from the beginning of the outbreak in January 2020 through to and including November 2021.

Funny how they were called heroes up to that point.

Up 70 Down 7

Patricia O'Brien on Jan 28, 2023 at 2:24 pm

It is too bad that when the Yukon Party set up the program to train nurses locally for their LPN designation that they failed to ensure the credits were transferrable to another institution. Instead, Yukon graduates of the LPN program offered at Yukon College had a dead end designation. If they wanted to pursue their Registered Nurse designation they had to go to an outside institution and then start at Square One.
May I suggest that, next time a Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) is offered, the powers that be ensure the credits are transferable to other universities so graduates do not waste two years of their time getting a "Yukon only" LPN certificate. I bet we lost a lot of nurses that way.

Up 28 Down 33

Consequences happen on Jan 28, 2023 at 12:08 pm

Be thankful the unvaccinated nurses were involuntarily, and therefore unlawfully, placed on leave WITHOUT pay. Otherwise the fallout from the shortage would be a hell of a lot worse.

Up 19 Down 6

@Max Mack on Jan 28, 2023 at 11:27 am

Right you are. But there’s nothing stopping the Star reporter from mentioning it.

Up 53 Down 8

Nurses, not MAiDs on Jan 28, 2023 at 11:25 am

Cancer surgeries could be considered elective? Playing hardball now, aren’t we?

Up 40 Down 49

BnR on Jan 28, 2023 at 6:59 am

“bonanzajoe on Jan 27, 2023 at 4:34 pm

Here's a thought dufuses and dufusettes, you shouldn't have fired the medical staff for not taking the jab. Now, don't bore us with your whining afterthoughts.”

Dear Joe
The number of medical staff who were fired for not “taking the jab” was minuscule and frankly, I don’t want my tax dollars paying the wages of medical personnel who don’t believe in such basic medical practice.
What we are seeing is medical personnel, specifically LPNs and RNs who have gone above and beyond during the last three years, in part dealing with people such as yourself and are burned out.

Up 48 Down 6

Wilf Carter on Jan 28, 2023 at 6:58 am

Try being a doctor or nurse for a week at the hospital and see what it is like. I know 3 nurses who stepped down because it was too much and they have young families. Disrespect for good health workers is disgusting. I have a lot of my family across Canada and in US and other parts of the world.

Up 43 Down 27

North_of_60 on Jan 28, 2023 at 2:05 am

This is just the beginning of the fallout from the C0vidiocy of mandates and restrictions. In every profession the smartest chose to quit rather than be coerced into an experiment that would cause more harm than benefit. Now the ones who went along with it are getting sick as was predicted.

This is far from over, the Yukon death rate [deaths per population] was relatively steady from 2010 to 2019, since then it's been increasing every year. The government won't publish this datum and the media carefully ignore it. However anyone can easily calculate the Yukon death rate from the yearly deaths and population numbers at the YG website.

Ask questions, do some research, look out for yourself and your family, because the govt sure as heck won't. They just drive up inflation and increase taxes to make our lives harder and more expensive.

Up 24 Down 2

NurseAnonymous on Jan 27, 2023 at 9:35 pm

Why isn’t there a chief nursing officer in place yet to address these issues? The nursing workforce needs a unified approach here and the voice of nursing is drowning from “nursing leaders” at the senior management table who haven’t talked to patients or families in years: only waiting it out to cash in on their fat government pensions. The bureaucracy is so out of touch it’s at a new level of absurdity.

I know of several local, experienced RNs and LPNs who applied to YHC and never received a callback now, or during the pandemic- nothing to do with vaccination status. But on that note, how about the ones who were let go because of a ridiculous mandate that put many out of work and ostracized from their profession, yet they were good enough to risk their lives in a simple surgical mask when they were denied an N95. Or how about YGs nursing “bonuses” that further segregate YHC and YG nursing staff? Divide and conquer doesn’t work for healthy public policy, so sorry to disappoint.

The actual hiring strategy: let's hire travel nurses for three times the price without a consideration of our community or continuity of care, and hire nurses with less than two years of nursing experience creating an unstable workforce of new grads running the show. Yeah. That sounds safe. Gotta love that government “ass in seat” approach. And the “don’t ask don’t tell” hiring mantra of YG and YHC. Except it doesn’t work like that in healthcare. EVER. Not if you want positive patient outcomes. So it comes down to this:
Who is leading nursing in the Yukon? A disjointed effort by overpaid bureaucrats and policy analysts with public health degrees who have never worked a floor or actually spoke to a patient about what their healthcare needs are. You know, stuff that you can’t actually learn in a textbook or an online zoom session.
But keep fattening the wallets of the administrative overhead- they still have home remodeling post covid after-all to finish- from the pockets of taxpayers to YG and YHC bureaucracy who come up with these terrible HR strategies. maybe they’ll answer call-bells when the nurses have had enough.

Up 17 Down 9

Webster on Jan 27, 2023 at 6:29 pm

Pro tip - don't fire the ones whom wouldn't take the vaxx.

Up 61 Down 51

Nelson on Jan 27, 2023 at 4:53 pm

Glad I quit and didn't take that thing or I'd be sick too.

Up 87 Down 18

Mark on Jan 27, 2023 at 4:43 pm

Thank you to nurses and all that provide us with healthcare in our time of need. I suggest that many of us can do our part to make health services available by better taking care of ourselves through better diets, exercise, and general healthier living. We often criticize governments, professionals, and administrators, but if the majority of people took better care, then demand for health services would surely ease.
It is important for our crippled health care system to recover and rebuild after having supported us during these extraordinary times. It is unimaginable to think that a person has to work long hours and days, change shift times, be asked to take on more shifts, and be denied vacation. Those with careers in health care deserve our respect and thanks. If 44,000 Yukoners put some effort into improving their own health, then we might see empty hospital beds and staff refreshed after a well deserved vacation. We would look and feel better ourselves.

Up 87 Down 63

bonanzajoe on Jan 27, 2023 at 4:34 pm

Here's a thought dufuses and dufusettes, you shouldn't have fired the medical staff for not taking the jab. Now, don't bore us with your whining afterthoughts.

Up 19 Down 34

bonanzajoe on Jan 27, 2023 at 4:31 pm

Here's a thought government dufases and dufasettes

Up 91 Down 58

Max Mack on Jan 27, 2023 at 4:22 pm

Nary a mention of the nurses and other support staff that quit, took early retirement, were laid off or that were fired outright for refusing to participate in the vulgar vaccine mandates.

Take a hard look in the mirror, Poole.

Up 66 Down 50

RickS on Jan 27, 2023 at 4:20 pm

Allowing them to take their performative masks off to breath, smile and be human would be a good start in reducing psychological stress, along with reducing the psychological stress on patients.

Up 95 Down 17

Thomas Brewer on Jan 27, 2023 at 3:13 pm

Bilsky refused an interview... not surprising. Management at YHC have their heads in the sand when it comes to operational requirements - but they'll happily hire another handful of managers or pay physicians' exorbitant rates to perform duties that can be (and were) done by nurses.

The doctors only start to complain when they can't bill for their services - they were all too happy to hamstring Nurse Practitioner's scope of practice to ensure they wouldn't lose income.

Time to change the system.

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