By Barb McKay
Despite the fact that substantial changes to the health care system are impacting hospitals throughout the province, the South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC) is in good financial shape, says its CEO.
Paul Davies told fellow board members at the SBGHC annual meeting last Wednesday that the health centre will need to tighten its belt and be diligent about spending over the next couple of years, but he believes local hospitals will make it through the period unscathed. The health centre entered the 2011 budget year with a surplus of just under $100,000, while many other hospitals are facing deficits.
“I think we’ll do quite well,” he said. “We’re not at the bottom of the barrel in terms of money in the bank.”
He cautioned however, that the provincial government is changing the way it funds the health care system, putting a greater emphasis on primary care and allocating more of its funds to fighting and managing chronic disease.
“As a result,” Davies said, “there will be less of a focus on health care structures, such as hospitals, and more will be put into things like family health teams.”
Davies said government changes to the health care system, including funding, are driven by an aging population and the province’s financial situation. He said the provincial government is projecting a balanced budget by 2017, “but that is dependent on the health care system not growing one penny.”
Davies said the worst case scenario for the SBGHC would be a two, four or six per cent reduction in funding from the province over the next few years, noting that one per cent is equal to $400,000.
The SBGHC is fortunate though, he said, to have hospital foundations who take on the burden of keeping medical equipment up-to-date, which frees up money in the budget for other areas. Past treasurer Jeff Vandervoort said the SBGHC has managed to complete projects, including a new addition to the Walkerton hospital, while maintaining a balanced budget.
“I’m confident, with the leadership of our CEO, team and staff, we’ll continue to provide quality care,” he said.
Kincardine hospital foundation president Gregg McClelland asked about the status of the new Kincardine hospital, which is anticipated to be constructed in the next 10 years. He questioned, with the province potentially reducing funding to hospitals, if the project was still on the list.
“There have been some projects that have fallen off the proposed list, but this project is not one of them,” Davies replied.
Past board chair John Haggarty said he sent a letter to Huron-Bruce MPP Carol Mitchell’s office looking for an update but had yet to receive a reply.
During its annual meeting the board appointed Don Bushell as chair for the next one-year term. Haggarty will remain on the board for an additional year as interim vice-chair. New regulations from the province require hospital boards to have no more than 11 members. The SBGHC board was forced to reduce its membership from 19 members. Davies will remain as corporate secretary and Vandervoort will act as secretary of the board.
The board also appointed four new directors – Chris Unruh, Larry Allison, Allen Wickert and Kylie Pike.