Last week The Scarborough Hospital announced it was eliminating 98 positions as part of its efforts reduce a $17 million annual deficit. On top of that, the hospital has found itself saddled with $2 million in bad debt related to its participation in Plexxus, a joint-purchasing company it shares with 10 other GTA hospitals. The hospital is presently seeking to amortize that bad debt over a longer period of time.
Eliminating the deficit at a time of base funding freezes has been particularly painful. Last year The Scarborough Hospital was spurned as a potential suitor in a proposed merger with the Toronto East General Hospital. More recently the LHIN stepped in amid community uproar over a plan to move all maternal and newborn programs to the Birchmount campus of The Scarborough Hospital. The initial plan also called for Birchmount to become a centre for day surgery, leaving more complex procedures to the main campus.
While The Scarborough Hospital is still implementing 111 of 139 proposals to reduce costs – resulting in $8 million in annual savings – changes in service delivery require further community consultation and discussion between health service providers. To that end, the Central East LHIN told The Scarborough Hospital to work with the Rouge Valley Health System to look more broadly at service delivery in the eastern edge of the City of Toronto.
What these service changes will look like is anybody’s guess at this point.
The two hospitals are appointing representatives to a joint leadership committee that will look at how services are delivered in the Scarborough region. That committee will also include professional and community representation.
An intense summer lays ahead for the committee plus two specific expert panels that will look at maternal newborn as well as surgical services. The two special panels are expected to seek community input into their work.
The Central East Local Health Integration Network (CE LHIN) is expecting an “integration” proposal by September in hopes of making a final decision in October. An “integration” by definition can be anything from a transfer of services to higher-level cooperative efforts between two parties. They can also include service cuts. The LHIN does not have the power to force a merger between the two hospitals and it is unlikely the two would do so on a voluntary basis.
As a result of the talks between the two hospitals, certain capital projects have also been placed on hold pending the outcome of the integration decision.
The Friends of The Scarborough Hospital maintain that a capital project is responsible for the hospital’s growing deficit and debt situation. A $35 million ER/Critical Care redevelopment at the main campus is said to be a major part of the problem. While TSH raised $22 million through its foundation to offset these costs, the Friends report that only $7 million of that was available after fundraising costs and uncollected pledges were tallied.