This time of year marks the arrival of spring. It also represents the beginning of Saskatoon Health Region’s fiscal year. Therefore, it is important that we know how we are going to live within the funding available to us and make the necessary changes to reduce our operating costs.

We began developing our budget plans, even in advance of receiving our confirmed funding from the Ministry of Health. We have received direction from our Authority regarding their expectations and preferred strategies. We have based our plans on the following budget principles:

  • Patients First: we remain committed to providing exceptional care and service to patients, clients, residents and their families;
  • Region-wide: our plans apply to all parts of our Region, including affiliates;
  • Focus on core services: we will preserve the basic services insured under Medicare;
  • Commitment to Saskatoon Health Region core values: respect, compassion, collaboration, excellence and stewardship will guide our budget decisions and implementation plans;
  • Alignment with Health Region and Ministry strategic plans: we will prioritize and resource our strategic priorities;
  • Quality is our business strategy: we will improve the quality and safety of our care and eliminate waste, recognizing that improved quality benefits our patients, client, and residents and is often less expensive;
  • Targeted investments: we will invest in selected areas related to quality, safety and efficiency;
  • Not business as usual: we will change and improve many aspects of our work.

Saskatoon Health Region’s cost reduction strategies are based on evidence of the primary drivers of waste and opportunities for cost reduction in any health system. Our strategies are:

  • Clinical quality: enhance quality of care, with a specific focus on infection control, wound care, medication safety, falls and reducing unnecessary readmissions;
  • Mismatched services: improve administrative efficiencies (e.g. share services with other health regions, reduce waste, reduce costs related to office leases, travel and catering),
  • Implement LEAN and expand Releasing Time to Care, invest in technology, redesign our International Travel Clinic, and improve utilization management, especially in diagnostic services;
  • Patient flow: redesign our home care services and registration processes, change bed mix, and redesign our in-house physician coverage at RUH, SPH and SCH;
  • Workplace excellence: manage vacancies (e.g. not filling or delay filling vacancies where appropriate), streamline administration, reduce orientation costs, enhance staff safety and scheduling, and implement other strategies to reduce WCB lost days, sick time and overtime;
  • Supply chain: pursue group purchasing with other regions and implement purchasing cards to streamline purchasing of small items.

We will make a number of changes to our bed mix over the next 12 months. We will:

  • Increase approximately 67 long term care beds at Oliver Lodge (effective November 2010) at which time we will close 28 transitional care unit (TCU) beds at SCH. We anticipate that the affected TCU staff will be able to find work in other positions within the Health Region;
  • Increase six to ten mental health beds at the new Irene and Leslie Dubé Centre for Mental Health;
  • Increase ICU and CCU beds upon completion of the renovations at RUH.

We will also focus on reducing acute care patient days through reduced admissions and/or reduced lengths of stay. We need to reduce the high occupancy rates which cause so much pressure on our system and affect patient flow. Achieving these reductions will be very challenging work and will require the efforts of many staff and physicians. Evidence has shown that by improving the quality and safety of our care, we can reduce lengths of stay and the cost of our care. We will also invest in our chronic disease management programs, which have already demonstrated positive results in reducing admissions to hospital and lengths of stay.

This year, we will receive targeted funding from government for additional dialysis volumes, the domestic violence treatment option (DVTO), and enhanced autism services. We anticipate we will receive additional funding to reduce wait times for surgery, especially for those day surgery procedures where some patients wait more than 18 months.

In addition, even in a year when we are reducing operational costs, we will invest additional funding for quality and patient safety, chronic disease management, physician coverage at SCH, staff scheduling, voice recognition technology and implementation of Sunrise Clinical Manager (Emergency Department module and viewer module so staff can access reports throughout our hospitals in Saskatoon).

To at least partially offset these costs, we will pursue additional revenues from things such as charges for private and semi-private rooms, rental of space to non-Saskatoon Health Region staff and programs, and cafeteria revenue.

The year ahead will be very challenging. We are committed to balance our budget but it will take the collective efforts of everyone in Saskatoon Health Region. You will begin to see some of the changes we need to make even before we submit a final budget to our Authority for approval by
May 31. It is important to minimize the amount of job loss resulting from this budget. However, given that almost 80 per cent of our costs relate to salaries and benefits, some job loss will occur. This means that some valued colleagues will be leaving our organization or changing roles. Our core values must guide all our actions as we support one another in the weeks and months ahead.