Staffing shortage forces postponement of 150 elective surgeries at Whitehorse hospital

A file photo of the Whitehorse General Hospital. About 150 elective surgeries have been cancelled in February and March. (Paul Tukker/CBC))

Dozens of Yukoners preparing for surgery at Whitehorse General Hospital have had their plans delayed. 

The Yukon Hospital Corporation announced last week it’s postponing roughly 150 elective surgeries due to staff shortages. Those surgeries were scheduled between Feb. 13 and March 31.

James Low, the corporation’s director of medical staff services, said normally the hospital has 13 staffers in the operating room. Right now, only half the staff needed are available.

“Unfortunately we’re in this environment where we’re heavily reliant on agency or travel staff,” Low said.

The cancellations represent about one third of the surgeries that normally would happen at the hospital in the same time frame.

“We’re not reducing or deferring everything in this period,” Low said. “We’re just bringing the level down to a place where we have adequate staffing to support that service.”

Low said the cancellations will not affect emergency or urgent care, and that the cancellations are a direct result of medical staff shortages being felt across Canada.

“Hospitals and health providers across the country are sort of experiencing the same challenges with respect to health human resources and the Yukon unfortunately is no different.”

This is not the first time elective surgeries have been delayed at the hospital. Low first told CBC News last June that some non-urgent surgeries were being delayed.

Low said the corporation has upped its recruiting tactics — for example, turning to social media to lure professionals North.

He said it’s also working with Yukon University to find longer term solutions. One idea is to create a “bridging program” for licensed practical nurses so they can become registered nurses.

As for patients affected, their surgeries have been delayed but not scrapped.

Low said most are expected to be rebooked in April or May.

CBC News

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