Photo by Whitehorse Star
HSS spokesperson Pat Living
Photo by Whitehorse Star
HSS spokesperson Pat Living
To help with its health care review, the Yukon government has hired a consultant to guide its public engagement session.
However, it won’t share the overall budget for the exercise – nor how much that consultant is being paid.
As per the Star’s inquiries, though, the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) said Tuesday afternoon the costs are minor.
“To date, expenses have been minimal, and no additional funds are being requested for the comprehensive review,” wrote HSS spokesperson Pat Living.
She pointed out the two out of at least three people involved in the review, the tiger team and steering committee, are funded internally within the department’s budget.
For the 2019-20 year, HSS has expenses totaling $443 million, with the next-highest department coming in at $267 million in expenses.
HSS was unable to provide details around how much the other group in the review, the independent expert panel, would be paid.
The department did not provide a hard number for how much it will be paying the consultant, John Glynn-Morris, either.
“Costs will be based on the amount of time and resources required,” Living said, adding “we don’t have a final amount at this time.”
Meanwhile, as reported last November, documents shared with media by the Yukon NDP showed the review could clock in as high as $2 million.
Those documents, which the NDP said were draft terms of reference for the steering committee, also showed the 11-member group began its work after being established in April 2017 – so more than two years ago.
That means the review could come with a cost that remains unknown at this stage for work spanning just under three years, as the panel is to deliver its final report to YG in March of 2020.
However, Living explained, the review process began in the summer of 2018.
Meanwhile, this comes as the government said in a release from last week that the online discussion is open between May 10 and Aug. 31.
Unlike other public surveys commonly hosted on engageyukon.ca though, this one involves a “online discussion board” run on Civicly – a civic engagement platform that Yukon College notes is map-based and pairs engagement with crowdsourcing maps.
“Civicly is already being used by customers across the country to quickly build a slick public-facing engagement platform complete with a discussion forum, Q&A, interactive mapping, customizable surveys, open data visualization, and much more,” a college webpage adds. Civicly used to be sold on a project-by-project basis, and is funded by Technology and Cold Climate Innovation.
A project page for the engagement itself, which is titled “Taking the Pulse: a health and wellness conversation”, invites Yukoners to get involved by signing up and providing input in a number of areas including social supports, pharmacare and pharmaceutical benefits, aging in place, those with multiple layers of needs and coordination of care within and out of the Yukon.
As of Tuesday morning, one user had provided input, with the chair of the independent panel, Bruce McLennan, thanking them for their feedback.
Living added that YG opted to go with Civicly over a regular survey because “we’re looking at new ways to engage with our citizens.
“There is a requirement to make an account but you don’t need to connect it to your personal identity,” she added.
The webpage also lists Glynn-Morris as the “engagement process support.”
A self-employed consultant, he has a background in planning and runs public participation processes on a project or contract basis. He is also listed as a director and member with YuKonstruct and (co)space and is based in Whitehorse.
YG hired this consultant to help in “organizing meetings with partners, NGOs, and stakeholder groups,” but has not disclosed the amount he is being paid.
Meanwhile, last Friday’s release notes the engagement is being led by the expert panel, made up of the five members including McLennan, Diane Strand, George Green, Greg Marchildon and Jennifer Zelmer.
Glynn-Morris and Kendra Black (who is listed as the director of the comprehensive review) join the others in being able to view the comments on Civicly.
Last week’s release also points out the “panel hopes to hear from a diverse group to help shape how the Government of Yukon can improve services, better allocate existing financial and human resources, and find creative solutions to meet residents’ needs.”
Asked if this meant there will be any budget or job cuts, Living explained that “there will be no job cuts coming out of the review.
“We are working to reduce the budget’s rate of growth. This isn’t about making cuts but ensuring that our system is sustainable.”
Last month, though, McLennan seemed to hint otherwise.
“Some recommendations will probably direct for future changes to the department and how they deliver services and what resources they use to deliver those services,” he said in April.
While he reiterated it was not the exercise’s intention to say HSS, among other department and areas across YG that could see changes, was too big or too small, McLennan noted that impacts on staff levels could be an indirect outcome.
“We’re not looking at staffing models, we’re looking at deliverables.”
The government has likened it in the past to an exercise in finding efficiencies, as HSS is the bigger cost drivers across government.
According to its 2019-20 budget, for instance, YG is expected to see the department make up 30 per cent of total expenses in the territory while bringing in the third- highest revenue, at about three per cent.
As McLennan added though, HSS may not be the sole group accountable to the recommendations; other bodies under scrutiny could include the Yukon Housing and Hospital corporations and Emergency Medical Services (which falls under the Department of Community Services).
Meanwhile, the price-tag on the exercise being kept under wraps comes as the panel’s chair acknowledged there could be some overlap between recommendations made more than a decade ago.
HSS was unable to confirm how much that 2008 review, for which McLennan also chaired the steering committee, cost Yukoners.
“There are things even there that the panel is aware of that may not have been fully implemented,” McLennan said last month, adding that demographics have of course changed over the years since then.
He added the review this time around was a little broader in that both health and social services were being looked at, while the earlier review was “more looking at an economic type of review.”
As for the more immediate term, the panel’s engagement session is more than just the online component on Civicly; public meetings will be held in Dawson City, Whitehorse and Watson Lake during the first two weeks of June and later with community partners.
After that, a summary of what the panel heard will be prepared and shared publicly this fall – which will be followed by another round for community partners to provide input.
Living said she expects those meetings to engage Yukoners to take place in October and November.
“The discussion board (will be) remaining open throughout the summer,” she added.
The panel will then have a draft report for YG by December of this year, which the government hopes will help it guide the budget for 2020-21.
A final report will be completed by March 2020.
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