If there has been one good news story this summer it’s this: CEO Paul Rosebush sent a memo to all physicians and staff at his South Bruce Grey Health Centre in July telling them that the hospital’s fiscal shortfall for this coming year has shrunk from $700,000 to $300,000.
This may not sound like a big deal, but SBGHC operates on a modest budget of about $42 million.
Small rural hospitals weren’t supposed to be affected by the introduction of the new hospital funding formula last year, but the four small hospitals that make up SBGHC were big enough as a single corporate entity to qualify. That meant a drop in base funding — an especially tough pill to swallow while hospitals are under a base funding freeze for the second year in a row.
Rosebush had appealed to the South West Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN) that this was unfair. By virtue of working together the four hospitals were being penalized under the formula.
The SW LHIN listened and has partially mitigated the hospital’s circumstances for now. There is a promise to revisit SGBHC’s funding for future years.
Here’s a story we don’t see every day: South Bruce Grey Health Centre is cutting two of its four senior management positions as part of its efforts to deal with a budget deficit.
Contrast that with hospitals such as Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, which carved out a new advisory position for its departing CEO at a time when front line staff are bracing for tough times ahead.
The decision may have been slightly easier to make at SBGHC given two senior managers are retiring. However, as most front line workers already know, when you cut vacant positions, it still has an impact on the workload of those left behind.
SBGHC is one of the few hospitals to have weathered the last decade without consistently running into deficit. The fact that they are now forced to trim their sails owes a lot to a punitive new funding formula emerging from Queen’s Park. Small rural hospitals weren’t supposed to be part of that formula, but because SBGHC combines resources from four small hospitals together, they do.
The irony is that by consolidating their resources these four small hospitals are being penalized. For the Hanover hospital, which has somehow managed to stay out of SBGHC despite being located within the same geographic area, they must be breathing a sigh of relief.
When the province introduced its new hospital funding formula, it specifically highlighted its intention not to subject small rural hospitals to it.
Evidently when the Minister meant small, she meant very small.
South Bruce Grey Health Centre is reporting that the new hospital funding formula means they will be facing a $622,000 shortfall next year.
SBGHC is made up of four very small hospital sites in Walkerton, Durham, Kincardine and Chesley. With four hospitals, it’s total budget is about $41.7 million, of which $29.5 million comes directly from the Ministry of Health (another $6.3 million comes in MOH physician funding).
The community makes the argument that had these four hospitals not been amalgamated, they would not be subject to this punitive funding formula.