For the third year in a row, Health Sciences North in Sudbury has reported a budget surplus. That was part of the news that emerged Wednesday evening as HSN held its annual general meeting, online, as part of a Zoom teleconference.
The hospital budget statement was presented by Vasu Balakrishnan, the board treasurer and chair of the board’s audit committee. He reported that the hospital finished the fiscal year (2020-2021) with a surplus from hospital operations of $2.9 million. The hospital had a surplus last year of $338,000 in 2019-2020, and a surplus of $1.8 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
Balakrishnan's report also revealed that total revenues for regular hospital operations amounted to $519.7 million, with an additional $52.3 million in revenue for COVID-19 impacts and $17.7 million in one-time working capital funding.
The treasurer also explained that the hospital took financial hits in other revenue categories. He said that patient services revenue had decreased by $7.9 million due to pandemic-related reductions in activity levels including a $1.3-million decrease in OHIP technical fees and a $6.6-million decrease in revenues from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
Balakrishnan also said the pandemic had an impact on operating expenses, which increased by $51.4 million. This also included personnel costs going up by $27.1 million or 9.6 per cent, reflecting an increase in the total hours worked.
At the end of the year, Balakrishnan said the total revenues exceeded expenses by $20.8 million. This included a one-time revenue from the Ministry of Health of $17.6 million in working capital funding, as part of a $696-million announcement made by the province on March 22. He said this one-time funding was not to be used for operating purposes.
The hospital board also approved the reappointment of Dominic Giroux as president and CEO at the hospital. Giroux's original five-year appointment would have ended in October 2022. His reappointment means his job contract is now extended to October of 2027.
Board chair Floyd Laughren said the board was pleased with Giroux's leadership qualities.
"Dominic provided sound leadership to HSN and HSNRI over the past four years, improving our financial performance while enhancing our patient experience survey results. He developed a strong executive team and guided our organizations through a new strategic plan, a regional cybersecurity incident, accreditation, a new capital master plan and our forthcoming digital transformation," said Laughren.
In his own report to the board, Giroux thanked the board members for their confidence and admitted the past year was busy and was focused on the pandemic response. Giroux praised his staff for providing care to more than 190 COVID-19 patients and many more who arrived at the hospital.
Giroux said this included "rapidly mobilizing HSN’s geriatrics, palliative and mental health and addictions outreach teams to support over 600 individuals in the community impacted by COVID."
Restating what he has said before about the importance of virtual care, Giroux said the past 12 months was an important learning experience.
"The pandemic led us to achieve more in one year than we were envisioning over many years to achieve Outcome No. 4 of our strategic plan, which calls for an expansion of virtual care models and remote patient monitoring," he said.
Progress in the past year included almost tripling the number of virtual care appointments in the previous year, from 22,000 in 2019-20 to 58,000 virtual appointments in 2020-21, said Giroux. The hospital also launched a virtual Emergency Department Service this past year, which so far has provided care to more than 1,500 patients, Giroux said.
Commenting on HSN's work with health care agencies across the city, Giroux said, "It has been a true collaborative effort involving all departments within HSN, and numerous partners."
In terms of numbers, Giroux reminded the meeting that HSN set up the first hospital laboratory in Ontario to screen for COVID-19 and Variants of Concern. This allowed for the processing for more than 331,000 swabs from across Northern Ontario, which meant supporting other hospitals and speeding up the turnaround times and the process of contract tracing.
As the meeting ended, board chair Laughren, who is stepping down after two years in the chair, said he would continue as a board member.
"I would like to thank all of our employees, medical staff, learners, patient and family advisors, volunteers, donors, members of the boards of directors and staff of the HSN Foundation, the HSN Volunteer Association, NEO Kids Foundation and the Northern Cancer Foundation for their outstanding work on behalf of our patients," said Laughren.
Laughren also thanked the patients for "putting their trust in us."
"HSN is your hospital after all," he said.
Note: Wednesday’s annual meeting also featured a panel discussion of some of the city’s outstanding medical leaders who spoke at length how their health agencies and hospital departments went above and beyond expectations in providing health care to Sudbury and area residents. That will be featured in a separate news story this week.