Both sites of the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital will lose six beds each as part of ongoing budget cutting.
However, hospital administration is certain that layoffs will not be likely to attain a balanced budget.
“I doubt there will be any layoff situations,” said Linda Bisonette, interim president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the hospital. She added that early retirement packages have been offered to older staff, followed by “voluntary exits” thereafter.
“We are taking a humane approach,” Bisonette said, adding that the management has already reached deals with two of the three trade unions represented at the hospital, and they are still in talks with the third.
Already, the hospital is working to reduce overtime, though “there will be times when overtime will occur,” said Bisonette.
Bisonette stated that the hospital will run a deficit in 2013, but will likely be showing a surplus by 2014.
“Politically, closing beds sounds bad, that patients will suffer,” said Lynda Hendriks, chair of the hospital’s board of directors. “The need for beds is reduced by the amount of time people convalesce.”
Now, thanks to modern medicine, someone recovering from hip surgery can be out of hospital in two days, Hendriks stated, whereas 20 years ago, their stay in hospital may have been far longer.
“You can function with fewer beds,” said Hendriks. “Things have changed.”
Perth deputy Mayor John Gemmell had requested that Bisonette present an update to Perth town council on Tuesday, Oct. 23, to quell rumours that had been swirling around about possible budget cut scenarios at both facilities.
Hendriks explained that the hospital had started a peer review on July 13, after meeting with Robert Devitt, president and CEO of the Toronto East General Hospital, to begin the process of bringing in a balanced budget and “to give us direction. He required a lot of paperwork,” recalled Hendriks, requesting a deluge of minutes, memoranda, reports, and even time sheets.
The process was not only to balance the books but to bring the budget in based on “revenue based budgeting,” said Hendriks, who added that the administration “worked with staff to come up with creative solutions, (to create) a solution that came from within, from the staff, the management.”
As of Thursday, Oct. 18, the hospital’s board approved the peer review and sent it to the Champlain LHIN (Local Health Integration Network), which oversees the hospital.
“In the hospital business, the resources that we utilize… are determined by our physician staff,” said Bisonette.
Along with all of the regular frustrations that come with operating a two-site hospital, Bisonette added that, over the summer, she and her staff have had to contend with the rumour mills in both Perth and Smiths Falls.
“Oh dear, the hospital is bankrupt!” is one comment Bisonette said she heard over the summer. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Addressing those rumours was the main reason that Gemmell requested Bisonette and Hendriks’ presence last week.
“People are getting nervous about this,” said Gemmell. “Rumours are swirling. Hopefully the provincial government will step up and do its job. That’s not council, that’s just me.”
Coun. Beth Peterkin agreed with the need to clear the air.
“When people know only half of a story, they may make some assumptions that may not be correct,” said Peterkin.
Even with the information out there, Coun. Judy Brown noted that the perception game is still one that has to be addressed.
“People may be concerned… how it (bed closures) will affect patient care,” said Brown. “This is not going to affect patient care. This has not been an easy thing to undertake… but it is business as usual.”
The hospital is uniquely served in that it has not one, but two foundations to help in its fundraising efforts, the Great War Memorial Hospital of Perth District Foundation and the Smiths Falls Community Hospital Foundation.
Coun. Jim Boldt wondered if “in your plan… will you be spearheading any new fundraising events?” to help cover the deficit.
“We cannot use fundraising efforts to fund day-to-day operations,” said Bisonette. “They have to be utilized for projects or equipment.”
Coun. Jim Graff pointed out that his own family has been affected by the shortage of long-term care beds, with his own mother staying at the Great War Memorial Hospital’s third floor while she waited for a bed to open at the Lanark Lodge.
Bisonette said that while Lanark Lodge seems to be perpetually operating at capacity, increased home support may be a better way to address the stress on beds in hospitals, “so that the weight is not so much in hospital but (patients can be) at home with home support. Being able to be supported in your own home… is a gift for our seniors.”
Another aspect that must be considered with our aging population is that nurses have to focus more on their core jobs now and less on social services that patients may want, but which they no longer have time for, as they once did.
“We don’t have the quality of life services that they have in long term care,” said Bisonette. “There was a time we could do that. But now we have to focus on acute care.”
Bisonette said that if anyone in the community had any concerns, or wanted to address any rumours that they had heard, they can contact her at 613-283-2330, ext. 1110, or via email at email@example.com.