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HSS spokesperson Pat Living

YG won’t share how much health review will cost

To help with its health care review, the Yukon government has hired a consultant to guide its public engagement session.

By Palak Mangat on May 14, 2019

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.

Comments (5)

Up 7 Down 0

Juniper Jackson on May 18, 2019 at 9:13 pm

oh..I think there is a whole lot more hidden in the navel lint than the cost of this..is this the 142 health review? through..how many governments?

Everyone over the years has been griping about some facet of the health care system..and each successive government has thought..let's throw the gripers a bone and order up a review.. the dust settles..and so does the review. There are never any meaningful changes to the taxpayer, because that's too costly. You want to live? Sorry..you are asking for too much.. a whole bunch of government employee's got to say they want flexible hours.. good on them.. a lot of them..not all, will now get to do nothing for a longer stretch of time.

Up 13 Down 2

Groucho d'North on May 17, 2019 at 12:24 pm

It appears that Liberal governments have a different view of what "Open and Accountable" really means compared to we citizens. Over the past couple of years at both the local and national level, it has been demonstrated that they work hardest when trying to prevent the public from knowing of the failures and screw-ups they create.

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." The Wizard

Up 14 Down 0

Okay this move will cost upwards of 1/2 million dollars. on May 15, 2019 at 4:47 pm

The Chair of the Review will earn $1,500 per day plus expenses. Add to this the costs for the remainder of the other 4 committee members, and the cost of the engagement support people, reviews of reviews of reviews, and we are going to be reaching at least $ 500,000 this time around. Why on earth do we keep using strategies and consultants that do not work and do not produce any usable results?

Up 23 Down 5

Lost In the Yukon on May 14, 2019 at 5:49 pm

... one last thing. Do you recognize that sound? That's the sound of a can getting kicked down the road into the next election cycle ... Pauline Frost and Slippery Sandy will have wasted their entire term looking at their navels.

Up 26 Down 4

Lost In the Yukon on May 14, 2019 at 5:46 pm

OMG ... it just gets better and better with Slippery Sandy and Pauline Frost. Group Home reports won't be shared (at least three of them), costs won't be shared, actions taken won't be shared, and it goes on and on.

There isn't a study or review that these two ineffective leaders can't get behind and waste more public money and sanitize any result shared grudgingly with the public. All this is a sign that neither Frost nor Silver know WTF they're doing, and they're doing at our expense.

One last question ... why are we paying a Deputy Minister in HSS over $200,000.00 year if we have to hire someone to Chair a panel "of experts" and by the way some of them are no expert other than knowing who to hang out with and what Party card to have in their wallet.

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