Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Northern Health keeps watchful eye on on financial figures

Northern Health held their January board meeting in Prince George on Monday afternoon and at the conclusion of the day's discussion, the health authority for Northern BC said that with two months to go in their fiscal year, they would have to watch every penny between now and March 31st.

With hopes of finishing their financial year with a balanced budget, vice-president of corporate services Barry Cheal was quoted in the Prince George Citizen as suggesting that Northern Health would have to watch their spending very carefully in outside travel for patient care, staffing positions and minimizing overtime at PGRH and Quesnel hospitals.
The bulk of their information seems to be focused on the Prince George and Quesnel operations, with little opinion on how the rest of the Northern Health delivery area, including the North Coast, may be impacted on the Prince George meetings today.

The Opinion 250 website, as well as the Prince George Citizen both had details on the latest information that was coming out of the Northern health offices on Monday afternoon.

Northern Health Tightens Belt
(Breaking News) Monday, 21 January 2008, 17:40 PST
Prince George Citizen staff

Northern Health still hopes to end the fiscal year March 31 with a balanced budget, but it's going to mean watching every penny, said the vice-president of corporate services at Monday's board meeting.

"We have a surplus of $1.7 million and a contingency of $2 million we can use for a total of about $3 million to the end of the year," said Barry Cheal.

He said there was a deficit of about $1.1 million in a 28-day period prior to Nov. 15, due to increased occupancy levels, emergency room visits and surgical activities at Prince George Regional Hospital and about 25 beds occupied by patients waiting for long term care that pushed the budget to the limit.

"We have more and more senior citizens every year, and that does cause some pressure," said Cheal, who looks forward to the opening of the Gateway Retirement Community in May which will provide 80 long-term care beds.

"That will make a difference."

In the meantime, to end the year in a break-even position, "we'll have to watch our spending very carefully in outside travel for patient care, staffing positions and minimizing overtime at PGRH and Quesnel hospital."

Belt-Tightening Needed To Balance NH Budget
Michelle Cyr-Whiting
Monday, January 21, 2008 03:41 PM

Northern Health Board of Directors gathered this afternoon at Dornbierer Crescent

The good news was tempered by a warning for restraint for the remainder of the fiscal year, as Northern Health’s Board of Directors received the latest financial update.

NH Chief Financial Officer, Barry Cheal, says the health authority recorded an operating surplus of $1.7-million dollars for the period ending November 15th, 2007.

Cheal says revenue was up $4.8-million over what was budgeted, due to factors like higher funding from the Ministry of Health for compensation/services and higher miscellaneous revenues arising from charges to non-BC residents. But spending on acute care and support services was $3.1-million-dollars over-budget with higher hospital occupancy levels, emergency room visits, and surgical activities.

"We did have an increase in spending in supporting our whole acute care infrastructure in periods 8 and 9, so for that reason, for us to end the year in a balanced position, we need to be watching our spending very carefully for the remainder of the year," says Executive Director Cathy Ulrich.

Ulrich says, "So some of things that we are going to be monitoring very carefully are things like our travel, outside of travel that’s required for patient care, and also, staffing positions - making sure that we aren’t creating new positions without careful analysis of what we need."

The Northern Interior’s Chief Operations Officer, Mike McMillan, says, "At PGRH, we’re really focusing on trying to minimize overtime and in Quesnel, as well."

The fiscal year ends March 31st of this year.

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