Sudburians and residents of northeastern Ontario can rest assured Health Sciences North is well managed, performing well on key indicators and that its officials have a sound plan to balance its operating budget, says the head of the hospital.
Those assurances come by way of a largely positive third-party validation review of HSN’s 2018-2019 budget – and a one-time infusion of $4.8 million from the North East Local Health Integration Network, which ordered the review of the hospital’s proposed $505.8-million budget.
Dominic Giroux, president and chief executive officer of Health Sciences North, said the review and its recommendations will give the hospital time to determine the best way to sustain the services and programs patients rely on.
The review looked at a number of services offered by HSN, some of which were needed but that could perhaps be taken over by organizations in the community sector.
Giroux said he was pleased with the report, which was made public Friday, and the speed with which the LHIN acted upon it.
The review prepared by third-party experts was presented to the LHIN board about a week ago and it, in turn, presented its recommendations to HSN’s board Thursday.
There has been anxiety for months among some of the hospital’s 3,800 employees because it was clear the hospital would have to cut jobs to address its financial challenges.
HSN’s $505.8-million budget included the elimination of 113 full-time equivalent positions, 37 of them among management and non-unionized staff, and 76 in unionized positions.
That number has fallen to 51 full-time equivalent positions affecting 64 employees. HSN has cut about 50 management and one-union jobs, the LHIN said in a statement Friday.
The hospital now has certainty and the outcomes of the review are “quite positive,” said Giroux.
Positions will be cut for some members of the three unions represented at the hospital, including the Ontario Nurses Association.
The third-party review team, which included Kevin Empey, the former CFO of University Health Network, and Michael Barrett, former CEO of the South West LHIN, took its time to understand the situation at HSN, said Giroux.
Leaders at institutions under third-party review don’t know what to expect from them, but it was clear this validation team did not start the process with “predetermined outcomes,” said Giroux.
Rather, its members sought to understand the process undertaken at HSN since Giroux took over as CEO in October 2017.
“It was very clear to us that they did not come in with predetermined outcomes,: said Giroux in an interview with Sudbury.com Friday afternoon.
The end result for residents of the Northeast is that if they have loved ones visiting HSN’s emergency department, suffering from chronic illnesses or stricken with cancer, “we will be there for you. That’s our role at HSN,” said Giroux.
HSN was essentially budgeting for a two-year period, with an eye to balancing the books in 2019-2020 or 2020-2021. Cuts were implemented more aggressively in this first year because hospital employees told Giroux they did not want to suffer “death by a thousand cuts,” he said.
“We went a little bit deeper this year to have more stability for the next two years.”
After a first round of intensive budget reviews of HSN departments was undertaken, there were four areas of concern. Those involved in cost-saving discussions feared they would have to close hospital beds and reduce the number of surgeries. Giroux said everyone involved “went back to the drawing board” to make more departmental cuts to avoid those measures.
Giroux said he is pleased HSN’s board of directors gave managers the extra time to look again at department budgets because it contributed to LHIN and third-party reviewers being supportive of measures HSN was proposing to cut costs.
Carol Mulligan is an award-winning reporter and one of Greater Sudbury’s most experienced journalists.