There’s been a lot of talk recently about “improving paid hours” when discussing Saskatoon Health Region’s financial sustainability strategy.

But what exactly are paid hours?

Paid hours are all of the hours for which an employee is paid. These hours consist of worked and non-worked time, including: regular worked time, overtime, vacation, sick time, family leave, etc.

Why are paid hours so important?

About 70 per cent of the Region’s costs are related to paid hours. Earlier in 2016, paid hours were 3.5 per cent higher as compared to 2015. This increase in paid hours was resulting in a significant increase to the Region’s costs.

Focusing on paid hours as a way to reduce expenses can result in huge cost savings. It’s estimated that reducing paid hours by just two per cent will save the Region $10.4 million.

“If we can reduce premium paid hours, like overtime or third- or fourth-weekend work, we can save more dollars for every one of those hours. The idea is to get closer to the level we were at last year and sustain that level without incurring additional overtime hours,” said Jason Pion, manager of reporting for Saskatoon Health Region’s Department of Finance.

As part of a multi-pronged effort the Region is making to bring paid hours in line, a new process, a weekly Paid Hours Dashboard, has been implemented to help leaders in our organization manage the number of paid hours in their areas.

RR-2016-04-13-paid-hours“This is our first crack at weekly reporting at different levels,” explained Pion. “We give both the units and the service lines their reports. We then merge everything into portfolio reports for vice-presidents, and then create a region-wide report. So, everyone sees what they need to see for the level they deal with.”

With the help of this dashboard, which includes overall paid hours, as well as a breakdown for vacation and overtime, every unit can now see and understand what changes they can make to more efficiently staff their units and  manage costs. Standard work explains how to use the dashboard and to have team conversations about paid hours.

“We know that when we focus on items as an organization, we can achieve great things,” said Andrew Will, President and CEO of Saskatoon Health Region. “A recent organizational focus on overtime has helped us to reduce overtime costs by 37 per cent in just one month alone, thanks to each staff member.”

“The dashboard is an important tool for managers to use,” said Ron Balezantis, Director of Financial Planning and Advisory Services for Saskatoon Health Region. “They receive the reports weekly and can go through the graphs to compare this week’s numbers to last week’s, and to come up with ways to make improvements towards their target. The charts are actually reviewed at every level, up to vice presidents, who discuss their plans at the senior leadership table. We’ve also developed some standard work around that process.”

Weekly reporting is the key to success, Pion added. “It’s more timely than a monthly report, and it allows for immediate measures to be taken to make improvements.”

On a weekly basis, through the Paid Hours Dashboard, managers will study their budgets and make decisions as to where best to allocate staffing resources. They can optimize paid hours by examining staff resources. For example, reducing overtime; only filling vacant shifts and vacant positions when required to meet patient, client and resident needs; and using attrition to re-design schedules where appropriate. These small decisions at the unit level can have a huge impact.

“What we’re noticing is that when you start measuring something, you start seeing results,” said Pion. “We’ve seen paid hours start to go down in just a few weeks, and this shows we are moving in the right direction. We’re now closer to where we were last year at this time.”

“These dashboards help get that message out there, about where your unit is, and how it’s doing, and that gets people thinking and acting on it,” said Balezantis.

Education sessions are being planned for managers to help them come up with strategies for improvements based on their Paid Hours Dashboard.

Currently, targets set in the weekly reports are preliminary; adjusted targets will be rolled out with the 2016-17 budget.

So far, the Region’s strategies to bring actual paid hours in line with targeted paid hours are showing positive results. These strategies include the dashboard, as well as educating managers about service demand and staffing to demand, standardizing staffing principles around master rotations, employing relief and level loading, using the Region’s predictive model to plan ahead for surges, and deploying supports for managers at the unit level.