The main entrance sign at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. (File photo by Jake Kislinsky)The main entrance sign at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. (File photo by Jake Kislinsky)

Emergency Services Drive Up Deficit

The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance is operating in the red, but hospital officials say it could be worse.

Chief Operating Officer Sarah Padfield says they had been expecting to finish with an operating deficit of $1.8-million for 2015-16, but they ended the fiscal year just under a million dollars short (-$999,993).

Padfield says they're taking a hard look at what they can change to make sure they balance their budget in the future.

"We're looking at the numbers of beds we have, we're looking at anywhere where we are over our comparators in our peer group," says Padfield. "But the biggest driving factor that causes financial difficulty for this organization is emergency services."

The issue of how emergency services are provided in Chatham-Kent, particularly at the Sydenham District Hospital (SDH) in Wallaceburg, has been a hot topic as of late.

It's a big factor in an ongoing dispute between the SDH board and the Public General Hospital (PGH) and the St. Joseph's Hospital (SJH) boards. Governance operations at the boards have been on hold since the SDH board vetoed the 2016 Operational Capital Plan that required unanimous support to move forward.

The capital plan included cuts to services in Wallaceburg due to the projected deficit, which at the time of the vote was expected to be about $1.8-million. One of the services under the knife would have been ER department at the Wallaceburg site.

Padfield says they simply can't afford to continue operating with the system that's in place right now.

"It's costing us 30% more than we're getting funded to run emergency services across the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance," says Padfield. "Now we have an investigator who hopefully will bring some recommendations forward on that review and we can hopefully move forward from there."

Bonnie Adamson has been appointed to investigate the CKHA's current situation, and also the state of Chatham-Kent's two emergency rooms.

There's still no timeline for when the investigation and the recommendations will be brought forward.

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