One billion dollars sounds like a lot of money, and it is. That is the funding provided to the Saskatoon Health Region this year, to meet the health needs of the people and communities we serve. On average we spend $2.9 million every day.

Approximately 75 per cent of our spending is on salaries and benefits for the thousands of staff who work in our hospitals, long term care facilities, primary health care centres and many community settings. The remainder of our funding is spent on drugs, medical and surgical supplies, utilities and all the other things that are required to support a large health system.

We entered this budget year with a big challenge – a $33 million challenge. We carried forward a deficit from the previous year and knew we would experience significant service pressures because of our growing population, inflation and other increased costs. When we established our budget for 2012-13 we committed to do everything we could to live within our means without cutting services or laying off staff. Our main strategies focused on things we could control, especially overtime and vacancy management (i.e. assessing the need to fill every staff vacancy on an individual basis, especially those not associated with direct patient care). We also committed to reducing sick time costs by focusing on staff safety and wellness.

The progress we have made is commendable. Through the efforts of people throughout the Region, we have reduced our deficit by $18 million. This has not been easy. In many cases it means that staff took on extra work or changed the way they worked to reduce operating costs. I am very grateful for the individual and collective efforts of so many people who shared this responsibility to eliminate our deficit while continuing to provide quality care and services.

But we are only halfway there. Based on current spending, we are trending towards a $15 million deficit by the end of March unless we reduce our rate of expenditures. A deficit of this size, in fact any deficit, is not acceptable. This deficit amount, however, represents only three per cent of our remaining budget and is achievable. Our government and our Authority expect us to deliver a balanced budget. And we have only four more months to reach this target.

We have recently put in place very rigorous processes to identify and address those areas where our spending exceeds the approved budget. In particular we are focusing on units and departments where overtime is excessive and/or sick time rates are high. We are taking steps to do better staff scheduling and examine the causes of high sick time in selected areas. We are also pursuing increased efficiency in how we manage patient flow, especially on medical units where lengths of stay are above the expected length of stay. We will continue to limit or delay hiring in those situations where operational needs will not be unduly compromised. We will be acting on the many good suggestions we are receiving from employees about how we can be more efficient and eliminate waste.

One way or another we need to balance our budget. How we do it is up to us. Reducing costs by another $15 million sounds like a huge task. We have already shown that by improving quality and eliminating waste in all its forms we can provide better value to the patients, clients, residents and families we serve, at lower cost. I believe that by leveraging the knowledge, experience and dedication of our staff and physicians, we can find a way. But the clock is ticking and we need your help. The next few months will be a test of our ability to work together and make the tough choices that are required to live within our means.

2012-2013 Budget Summary Information
2012-2013 Budget Summary Information (PDF)

Maura Davies
President and CEO
Saskatoon Health Region