The Alexandra Hospital has a rather unique demographic. Located in Ingersoll, just off the 401 nestled between Kitchener and London, we’re told the hospital’s outpatient services are used frequently by truckers.
Recently hospital staff learned that the hospital lab would be closed to outpatients beginning July 1st. Local residents will instead be sent to the private CML lab in town. The truckers will likely find somewhere else to go.
The Alexandra Hospital is feeling the pinch of the government’s decision to starve hospitals as part of what they claim is a realignment of services. Classified as a small hospital, the Ingersoll facility received a modest one per cent increase last year. That’s better than the zeros facing their larger counterparts, but not enough to cover ongoing cost pressures.
Ingersoll would not be among the first of Ontario hospitals to shed outpatient lab services. They would be among the last.
OPSEU has been notified of reductions in hours for some of its members as a result. The impact on labour will be relatively small, although any loss of work in a small town is a big deal. (It’s a huge deal if its your job.) Here’s the rub: while Alexandra may save a small amount of money by making this decision, it will likely cost the Ontario government much more.
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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.
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Local Health Integration Networks were purportedly created to bring health care planning, integration, accountability, and funding closer to the 14 regions they serve. A key role for the LHINs was to engage their regional communities in this process. The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care was supposed to set the strategic directions, and the LHINs were supposed to operationalize them within the context of regional planning.
While the Health Minister has mused about further empowering the LHINs, recent signs suggest that perhaps the opposite is taking place.
The South Bruce Grey Health Centre is a case in point. Comprised of four small hospitals working under one umbrella, the Ministry of Health is not exempting SBGHC from implementation of the new funding formula. Small hospitals were supposed to be excluded from a funding system that was becoming far more reliant on volumes that rural communities could not possibly muster. By sharing resources, the four small rural hospitals that operate as SBGHC are over the budgetary threshold for exemption. SBGHC has an operating budget of $43 million – a pittance compared to some of Ontario’s billion dollar urban behemoths like The Ottawa Hospital or Hamilton Health Sciences.
SBGHC took their case to the South West LHIN and they agreed implementation of the formula on this hospital would be unfair. It would also throw SBGHC $700,000 further in debt next year if they failed to cut needed services. Continue reading →
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.
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