Board members at the SW LHIN asked Wednesday about a budget line which indicated an increase in LHIN salaries this year. Wasn’t there supposed to be a freeze for non-union staff? The LHIN replied that these were “performance increases” earned in 2009/10 and paid in 2010/11. For performance increases, salaries over $150,000 were limited to 1.5 per cent. There was no indication of how much of a “performance” increase was paid out for those under $150,000 per year, however, the total salary line was increasing by $464,315, or 15.31 per cent more than the previous year. While salary increases were a part of this, the LHIN also argues they are carrying the increased cost of vacant positions which have since been filled. The SW LHIN has 36 full-time equivalent positions.
The budget also gave some idea of how much the LHINs were spending on outside consultants. In 2009/10 the SW LHIN spent $634,381 on outside consultants. In lean times, they are expecting that budget line to drop to $145,730 in the coming year, a whopping 77 per cent drop. This matches what is happening at the Ministry of Health. The overall LHIN operating budget will actually drop by half a percentage to $6,008,850. This does not include allocations to health care providers. Taken together, the SW LHIN operates on .29 per cent of the region’s health services budget.
Is it better to have health care services closer to home, or consolidated in a single location? The SW LHIN apparently likes it both ways. A proposal to consolidate breast cancer services was heralded as increasing efficiency, while a proposal to divest mental health beds to Kitchener was lauded as placing patients closer to home. Board member Dr. Murray Bryant did point out that the breast cancer consolidation would likely result in some of London’s low income women having to take up to four buses to access the program. That would be further from home. He also pointed out that the wait times target set by St. Joseph’s Health Care for the breast cancer program was way too modest.
With all the bad news coming from the Ombudsman’s report and embarrassing series of stories emerging from the Erie St. Clair LHIN, it was no surprise that improving the image of the LHIN was a topic of the Chair’s report. SW LHIN Chair John Van Bastelaar said the LHIN staff were reluctant to call it “marketing.” No matter what it’s called, the SW LHIN has increased its communications/forums budget by 9.69 per cent for this year.