reports Sudbury MPP to meet with health minister about HSN financial issues

Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault says he’s lobbying to get the hospital the money it needs to avoid cuts 90
By Carol Mulligan, for

Sudbury Liberal MPP Glenn Thibeault says he is working as hard as he can to ensure Health Sciences North gets a healthy share of the $822 million in extra hospital funding his party leader, Premier Kathleen Wynne, announced March 22.

While talk of heavy job cuts persists at HSN, which is facing a $10-million deficit, Thibeault said there are “other avenues” besides the $822 million he can draw upon for the hospital.

He said last week he was going to meet with HSN president and chief executive officer Dominic Giroux this week to work on “hammering” out a number that could help the financially troubled hospital.

But Thibeault will wait to talk with Giroux until after a meeting Monday with Health Minister Dr. Helena Jaczek.

Giroux said late last month the hospital is facing a deficit more than twice as large as the one the board of directors of HSN approved. Ontario hospitals are mandated to run balanced budgets, but Giroux said HSN’s board will allow a deficit equal to one per cent of the hospital’s operating budget. With a budget or $490 million annually, that means HSN should not have a deficit larger than $4.9 million, said Giroux.

The jobs of five senior managers were cut in January, paring about $800,000 of expenses. But sources are saying many more people will lose their jobs as part of cost-cutting measures.

HSN is required to give unionized employees at least three months’ notice of layoffs and union leaders have not spoken publicly about members being notified.

Thibeault said last week that he was hoping to “pull some dollars for HSN … in very short order.” The Liberal MPP, who is also Energy minister, said he and Giroux need to work together to look for solutions to the hospital’s financial crisis and he expected to be “chatting” with Giroux this week.

While many hospital employees are nervous about their jobs, Giroux said he has been receiving emails and having conversations in hallways with staff who understand the financial bind the hospital is in.

The former Laurentian University president said employees are telling him they appreciate his transparency and his explanation of the financial picture, saying: “Well at least we have a clear understanding of the situation.”

One medical director wrote Giroux saying “he can understand finances” the way Giroux explained them.

Giroux said he is encouraged by the reaction to possible bad news by the hospital’s almost 5,000 front-line health workers and medical staff.

“They are smart, they are engaged, they are committed, they care about the health of the patients … and they want HSN to continue to be successful,” said Giroux.

The advice he is getting from people is: “OK, we need to course correct. Get it done, do it fast and then move on.”

They want to “just right side the operation and then let’s talk about our future.”

When asked if the hospital’s financial woes came as a surprise to Giroux, who took over as president and CEO in October of last year, he said to look at “the hard evidence.”

In each of the last five years, activity in areas such as surgery, mental health services, emergency department, out-patient services and other programs has risen 1.7 per cent annually. At the same time, funding from all sources – the Health ministry, Cancer Care Ontario and other funders – has only gone up .8 per cent, less than half.

“Provincial funding increases have not kept up with the increases in activity,” said Giroux, “and have not provided any support whatsoever for cost escalation during the five-year period.”

Most efficiencies have already been achieved at the hospital, said Giroux. “We’re really looking at reductions in staffing and reductions in programs and services.”

Giroux said he is taking the same approach to running HSN as he did Laurentian University –being accountable for achieving outcomes in a fiscally responsible way.

He aims to lead by sharing evidence, explaining information “in the most user-friendly way” and being constructive. It’s “not a blame game,” he said, but rather looking at the numbers to make sound decisions and difficult choices.

At the end of the day, he is accountable to the HSN board of directors to “meet their parameters.” When asked if that can be done, Giroux said, “It has to be done and it will.”

Carol Mulligan is an award-winning reporter and one of Greater Sudbury’s most experienced journalists.

Filed in: News

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