Opposition MLA Kate White took the Yukon government to task on Thursday, accusing it of moving Whitehorse patients to rural hospitals without consent.

The health department said this week that it's been regularly moving patients from Whitehorse General Hospital — which is often lacking beds — to hospitals in Watson Lake or Dawson City, both hours away.

White says some patients are being moved against their will.

"The fact that, in 2017, we're forcing patients to be transferred without their consent, hours away from family, is a true shame," the NDP MLA said.

Whitehorse Hospital Emergency Department

The Yukon government says Whitehorse General Hospital often lacks empty beds, so patients are moved to hospitals in Watson Lake or Dawson City. (Dave Croft/CBC)

White told of a patient at the Whitehorse hospital who witnessed a fellow patient, with whom she was sharing a room, being taken out on a stretcher to go to another hospital.

The patient was saying they didn't want to go, White said.

"The senior who witnessed this was understandably upset, and now they are constantly worried that the same thing could happen to them at any point," White said.

"What happened to the rights of patients, and how is this acceptable?"

'Not an administrative decision'

Health Minister Pauline Frost responded by saying that when patients are moved to another facility it's to ensure they get the best possible care.

"It's not an administrative decision that's made," Frost said.

"We want to make sure we provide proper care, essential care, and we want to do it in a respectful way."

That didn't satisfy White, who referred to the Yukon Hospital Corporation's website, which includes a list of patient's rights including the right "to be treated with respect, consideration, dignity and compassion" and the right to "accept or refuse any treatment or medication."

"How does it make any sense that patients can refuse treatment or medication, but are not allowed to refuse being transferred hours away from their families?" White asked.

"Where is the respect and where is the dignity?"

Frost said she would look into the issue, to ensure decisions are being made properly.

"If we are moving patients, I will commit that we are ensuring that family members are part of that process," Frost said.