Whitehorse Daily Star

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Dr. Alex Kmet

YMA concerned that surgeries cutback may be extended

The Yukon Medical Association (YMA) is another organization concerned about a pending surgical slowdown at Whitehorse General Hospital.

By T.S. Giilck on November 28, 2023

The Yukon Medical Association (YMA) is another organization concerned about a pending surgical slowdown at Whitehorse General Hospital.

The hospital will be seeing surgical cutbacks in December and January.

The cuts are scheduled to last for three weeks beginning Dec. 18.

However, Dr. Alex Kmet, the president of the YMA, says he’s worried the cutbacks could last longer than that.

In the Yukon, he explained in an interview Monday, operating nurses are at a premium.

Without a full complement of permanent staff, he said, territorial hospitals, particularly the one in Whitehorse, were reliant on so-called travel nurses.

Similar to a locum doctor, a travel nurse is a professional who comes in to serve a short-term contract, Kmet said.

They fill out the missing roster of operating room nurses, who are generally staffed two per shift 24 hours a day.

Without a full complement, those nurses inevitably suffer from burnout, leading to service gaps.

Kmet said there are no travel nurses booked beyond the end of the surgical slowdown, and he anticipates that by Jan. 18, more problems could develop.

He said he would like to see more action being taken by the Yukon government.

This isn’t a new situation, Kmet pointed out.

The shortage of surgical nurses has been apparent for years, he said, with no permanent solution being discovered.

Jessica Apolloni, a spokesperson for the hospital, told the Star Monday afternoon the move was to help the hospital “live within its means.

“Right now, what we have planned is an extended slowdown during the holiday season — and that means running at reduced capacity from Dec. 18 until Jan. 5,” she said.

“For context, we normally have an annual slowdown at this time of year but this time it’s a little longer. Last year was from Dec. 19th to Dec. 30th.” 

Apolloni added, “We’re living within our means. This is an urgent step to control escalating costs and work within existing resources to ensure our services remain sustainable. This includes reducing our use of travel (agency) nurses, which are more expensive and better utilizing our permanent staff.”

Apolloni added, “We continue to work with the government to create solutions.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and adjusting as staffing levels allow. We are continuously working to recruit OR nurses and we also have a system in place internally to train and mentor nurses who are interested in pursuing an OR specialty.

“This is a gradual, longer-term process, but to date, has proved effective,” Apolloni said.

Information dated Tuesday, posted on the corporation’s website, advises the public that “Yukoners coming to WGH (in particular) can anticipate some delays and longer wait times than you’re used to.

“This will have an impact on any patient/client coming for walk-in services (such as lab and x-ray), some scheduled appointments, and more urgent needs.

“These circumstances are due to a number of factors, including staffing challenges, increasing demand for services and sustained trending of higher than normal hospital occupancy,” the corporation said in its post.

“Health human resource constraints are being experienced locally and nationally, particularly in within nursing and sub-specialized fields such as imaging, lab, medical rehabilitation and others.”

The Yukon’s population is growing and its needs are evolving, the post added.

“The hospital continues to take steps to maintain immediate support for acute, admitted patients and emergency cases, while also continuing to address some less urgent needs over a longer period of time.

“We acknowledge that this does not meet our expectations or those in our communities.

“If you require urgent or acute care at any time, regardless of hospital capacity, you should seek care at your nearest hospital. The critically ill or injured will always receive care and will always receive priority attention.”

However, it may take longer to get a scheduled appointment for a CT, MRI, ultrasound, mammography, physiotherapy or occupational therapy.

“If you come to hospital on a walk-in basis for x-ray or bloodwork/lab test, you should expect and plan for a longer wait to have the procedure completed,” the corporation said.

“If you come to the emergency department, you can expect it to be busier than normal and you may experience longer wait times, as a result.

“If you need to be admitted to hospital, you may spend longer in the emergency department or be temporarily moved to another area of the hospital in order to be cared for safely.”

Yukoners are advised to follow any pre-appointment preparation and arrive at the specified time.

“Give yourself extra time to find parking, locate the right area, and register for your service/appointment,” the hospital corporation said.

“If you are unable to make a scheduled appointment, please call the hospital (with as much notice as possible), so you can be rescheduled. This allows your original appointment time to reassigned to someone else who is waiting.”

People seeking a walk-in bloodwork/lab test should expect mornings through the week, and especially, Mondays to be busier.

“If you do not have to fast, as part of your preparation, consider a time later in the day, or on a Friday, when it’s typically less busy.”

The hospital’s team, the corporation said, “is working hard to deliver quality and safety care – and this challenging situation is not where any of us want to be.

“Our teams are doing everything they can to maintain services to the extent that they can within a number of limitations, so acute/urgent services are available when needed.”

Comments (3)

Up 35 Down 4

Rob Walker on Nov 29, 2023 at 8:04 am

The hospital is cutting back to "live within it's means" while hundreds are waiting and suffering! Yukoners do not want the worst wait times in Canada. Fund the hospital.

Up 0 Down 0

YT on Nov 29, 2023 at 6:24 am

Meanwhile, Premier Pillai is galavanting around Germany.
Recruiting health care practitioners no doubt…..

Up 0 Down 0

Nathan Living on Nov 28, 2023 at 3:16 pm

If many people who need medical intervention pass away will there be a shorter wait period for those who are still alive waiting for treatment?

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