The Sunrise Health Region will take on its 1.04 million deficit this year with a promise to balance the books in 2014-2015.
“I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that this will be an easy year,” said Suann Laurent, Sunrise president and CEO.
At the regular board meeting on April 30, Lawrence Chomos, board chair, suggested the region might take a longer term approach to deficit reduction rather than trying to bite it all off this year, but the board decided to use a more aggressive approach.
The greatest pressure on the administration in trying to reduce the budget is wages, which make up the lion’s share of operating expenses, and is what got the region into the deficit position in the first place. With little wiggle room in the 2013-2014 budget, higher than budgeted sick time replacement and wage-driven premiums (for example overtime) led to spending overruns.
A big part of the strategy for getting these costs under control is simply keeping staff healthy with a focus on reducing workplace injuries as well as improving immunization and hand hygiene rates for both employees and clients.
“Compensation accounts for 77 per cent of our expenditures and the health region will continue to struggle financially for as long as sick time and wage driven premium costs remain high,” Laurent said.
The region will also target non-salary expenditures such as not allocating the three per cent inflationary funding providing by the Province, essentially for departmental administration. In simple terms, department managers will need to do more with less.
This does not affect wages, said Sharon Tropin, Sunrise director of communications.
Greg Ottenbreit, Yorkton MLA and government caucus whip, said in an end-of-legislative-session interview with Yorkton This Week that he was confident Sunrise would deal with the deficits by finding efficiencies.
“They’ve been very good at outlining some of the challenges they have and meeting those challenges,” he said.
For the full text of Ottenbreit’s end-of session comments please see the article “MLA proud of government record” on Page A5 of this issue.
Laurent is also optimistic.
“The health care providers in this region do an exceptional job of making the most of the limited resources available to them,” she said.
Laurent’s warning of a difficult year ahead also came with a promise, though.
“We need to be diligent in our financial stewardship and continue to provide safe, high quality health services to the people we serve.”
The total budget is $214,850,836 balanced by planned expenditures of $212,839,986 with $2,010,850 set aside for replacement reserves and debt service.
On the positive side, the region passed its annual audit for 2013-2014 with flying colours.
At the board’s regular meeting May 28, auditor Darcy Spilchen of Collins Barrow (formerly Parker Quine) called the audit opinion “unqualified.”
At the May 28 meeting the board also received and discussed the Annual Report. Before being made public, the report requires ministry approval, but contained at least one efficiency the health region has already achieved.
Chomos noted that surgeries performed in the region were down by more than 1,000 last year, from 3,900 to 2,800, compared to 2010-2011. Laurent explained this is because the region has managed to catch up and eliminate its surgery wait list resulting in reduced surgical demand.
Tropin said she expects to have ministry approval and publish the annual report by the end of July.