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Simcoe Reformer Aug 21-2012

 

SIMCOE Norfolk General Hospital has avoided layoffs and cuts to patient services after being given an extra year to find $1.3 million in savings.

But the facility isn’t out of the woods yet, warned Kelly Isfan, the hospital’s president and CEO.

In the first four months of the fiscal year, NGH ran a $600,000 deficit, putting it on pace for a $1.8 million shortfall — $500,000 more than originally projected.

Part of the problem, Isfan said, is that the hospital has been unable to roll out a full savings plan fast enough to make up for the near-zero increase in government funding it got this year.

“Right now, we have not had any layoffs,” she said in an interview. “We want to protect our patient care, but we have to balance our budget. We do need to see what the next steps are.”

The hospital has been struggling to find a way to break even — which all hospitals in Ontario are required to do — after it learned this spring it will get .5% more in government money.

It responded by reducing hours for some employees and continues to look at eliminating some management positions, Isfan said.

New revenue was found by raising fees at its parking lot and charging more for food in the cafeteria.

Other savings have come from purchasing a new analyzer for the lab that uses $80,000 a year less in chemicals and cutting back on some building maintenance.

As well, NGH is close to signing a deal with another healthcare organization to share “back office” personnel.

But it remains to be seen whether the moves will be enough.

Healthcare costs are rising at 3-4% a year and demand for healthcare services at NGH remains strong, Isfan noted.

“It hasn’t been an easy time here. We’re so full of patients. Our services our well utilized. There’s not much room to reduce services.”

Even if NGH cut beds or healthcare, the public would simply go to another hospital for service and government would still end up paying, Isfan said.

One piece of good news came from the Local Health Integration Network, the government body that oversees healthcare facilities in Norfolk County. It gave NGH an extra year to get to the break-even point.

“So we bought ourselves a little time,” Isfan said.

Daniel R. Pearce

519-426-3528 ext. 132

daniel.pearce@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/danreformer

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