Some Saskatoon Health Region employees will lose their jobs this holiday season, but the number of cuts is still up in the air.
The health region is projecting its largest deficit ever at $45 million. CEO Dan Florizone said that means there will be layoffs in the coming weeks.
“It’s with a deep heart that I express that. Particularly in this period, pre-Christmas, you know people are not wanting to hear this and I’d be the last person to say I want to tell you this.”
But he said they have to decrease their monthly spending by $4 million—the gap between provincial funding and patient expenses—by the end of the fiscal year. The region will always consider non-staff areas first Florizone said, but staffing takes up a majority of costs with 70 per cent of spending going to salaries.
When establishing the budget, Florizone said they set some “very bold targets” around reduction of overtime and sick time.
“And I have to say that many of those initiatives have been successful. The problem is, they just haven’t happened quickly enough.”
The number of cuts will depend on the areas that are targeted and which programs are eliminated. Florizone said he has personally looked at 1,100 different lines of service and whittled it down to 84 areas of closer examination.
They could include anything from parking to direct delivery and service design. But Florizone said the ultimate goal is to minimize the impact on patients.
All three Saskatoon hospitals are currently operating at over-capacity, with St. Paul’s and Royal University taking the brunt of patients. Reasons include a growing demographic that’s younger than ever and new technology that saves more lives.
There’s been a 15 per cent increase in demand over the last five years, Florizone said. “We have not kept pace with the demographic growth.”
But the CEO is especially concerned about the month of January. A predicted model with 94 per cent accuracy shows 120 more patients will be admitted that month than the health region has beds for.
Florizone said although it sounds counter-intuitive, the health region has seen more success hiring to need than worrying about budget. It has reduced overtime over the last three months by raising staffing levels to deal with the patient load, he said.
The health region’s 2015-2016 budget is $1.156 billion, and Florizone speculates that it’s unlikely they will get any more funding from the province.