The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance ended the 2012-13 fiscal year better than expected thanks to savings in overtime and sick time, but is still running an overall deficit of $2.7 million.
Sarah Padfield, CKHA vice-president and chief financial officer, said overtime costs were down approximately $300,000 and sick time was reduced by $100,000 compared to the previous year. However, the operational deficit was still $1.2 million for the year.
“It's always good to exceed your target, especially when you're budgeting a deficit,” she said.
The CKHA has previously projected a deficit of $5 million by the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Padfield said management have been working on a plan because it knows its funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is going to stay at zero or possible go down in the future as costs continue to go up.
The CKHA announced 23.5 layoffs and a reduction of 22 beds last summer.
Padfield said only two or three individuals actually lost their job, noting the rest of the positions were mitigated through such things as early retirements and filling other vacant positions.
“We were quite fortunate that we didn't have a really large impact on the workforce and we were really able to work closely with the unions to retain as many people as we can and minimize that impact,” she said.
Although there's been some positives with the last budget, Padfield said, “long-term deficits are a significant concern because there's lots of areas that need re-investment.”
She said the biggest change hospitals across the province are working towards is more integration with the community and partnering with primary care and mental health.
“The only way to really lower costs of hospitals is to keep more people out of them,” Padfield said.
She added that means having services delivered in non-hospital settings and avoiding people using hospitals.
“Those are the big issues in terms of looking at how do we, as a system, manage patients more cost effectively,” Padfield said.
In April, the CKHA moved five programs previously offered in hospital to the Chatham-Kent Community Health Centres. This included cardiac rehab, outpatient nutritional counselling service, respiratory health centre work, healthier living education series and outpatient chiropody.
When asked if there is a projection for when the deficit will be eliminated, Padfield said it's difficult to say, because the funding they receive from the ministry is only on a year-to-year basis. She noted the CKHA is already a quarter-way into this current fiscal year and is just starting to get funding information from the ministry.
“It's very difficult to look forward over a period of a couple of years and make projections when you're always kind of starting from behind,” Padfield said.
She noted the CKHA is hoping to receive the same $102 million funding it got from the ministry last year.
“We're working on that assumption,” Padfield said. “I think it will be close.”
She said of the changes made throughout the last year, very few of them have had patient impact.
“In many cases, especially where were able to partner more closely with the community, we actually think we've improved patient care,” she said.
Padfield said the challenge is: “How do you redesign health care in a way that you're not going to impact patients, that you're not going to impact how people access the health care system, but do it in a more cost-effective manner?”