Kitchener hospital faces proposed budget cuts

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Last week, St. Mary Hospital is in Kitchener announced a proposed plan that would address the 5-million dollar deficit and the anticipated ongoing $2-million deficit for the next year. The director of communications for St. Mary’s, Victoria Raab, explained not only how the deficit came to be, but how the hospital intends to recover from a gap in funding.

“One area we have lost ground in, and another area we have room for improvement over time with, [are] sick time costs. Currently the Ontario hospital average is about 1.4 per cent in overtime costs and St. Mary’s is at about 2.4 per cent so we have some room for improvement there,” Raab explained.

Other issues with funding are that St. Mary’s provides out-patient services for area residents who have received surgery for implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, which are offered at hospitals in Hamilton, Toronto and London rather than here in the K-W region.

These out-patient treatments, serving approximately 400 patients in Waterloo-Wellington, are not fully funded since the hospital which performed the surgery receives the coverage.

Raab assured that St. Mary’s is working on getting some of the funds re-directed to the hospital through the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) to continue to offer the treatments. “They live here; they deserve to have care in their own backyard. We made the choice to provide that service even though we weren’t getting funding.”

Another part of the deficit, Raab explained, was that there is a gap between inflationary spending and inflationary funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. “Our fixed costs are rising by about three percent a year, and that’s things like overhead costs. We received last year 1.6 per cent in a funding increase, so there’s still a bit of a gap there.”

The hospital has developed in partnership a proposal that would include $3.2 million in revenue generation and new funding opportunities”along with $1.4 million in reductions in administrative, management and non-union positions and $2.5 million in clinical efficiency improvements. Raab explained that these cuts should not affect quality or access to hospital services.

“Our goal is not to increase wait times as a result of cuts. St Mary’s is well known for having excellent quality, it is first and foremost our priority. We have made these changes, went through a number of strategies that could have been implemented that would have the least impact on quality,” she said.
Raab was concerned that the cuts could lead to problems.

“It could lead to a potential impact in the emergency department or elsewhere for beds. An outbreak or something could happen over the winter season, potentially influenza.”

She mentioned that the hospital has software that would help mitigate the issue, relocating patients where beds are available within the hospital.

St. Mary’s expects a total of 40 positions to be reduced or eliminated.
While ultimately still a proposal, the cuts include methods of adjusting surgery scheduling to eliminate weekend day-surgery, realigning job descriptions and reducing clinical positions by attrition or early retirement.

The proposal will be sent to the board of directors meeting for the LHIN, the earliest date which the proposal could be voted upon is Dec. 1.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since its original publishing date.


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