agyqiyd · 2021-03-23

Hospital faces deficit

Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital is unlikely to drag itself into the black before the end of this fiscal year, Orillia Today has learned.

“It is looking like a slim chance that we could end up with a balanced position by the end of the year, at this point,” said president and CEO Elisabeth Riley.

The local facility had hoped a fresh influx of cash for its regional dialysis program would be enough to dodge a projected operating deficit of $1.7 million.

But according to Riley, rising expenses largely offset the funds awarded by the province for the widely used program.

“The bottom line is, we are now projecting a $1.6 million deficit,” she added.

Riley noted that a portion of the funds recently earmarked for dialysis services were directed to satellite clinics in the region.

Whether Soldiers’ scores additional dollars by the end of this fiscal year will depend on patient volumes at the local dialysis unit.

The fiscal year ends March 31.

“There is still the possibility for more money if the volumes justify it by the end of the (fiscal) year,” she said.

The hospital will continue to seek savings wherever possible as it works to grind down this year’s shortfall and plans for the future.

For example, positions left vacant when staff members retire or otherwise depart the hospital could be eliminated, so long as services were not impacted.

Those same positions might also be made part-time, Riley added.

Layoffs are not being contemplated at this point in time, she said.

“Our hospital is really built on expertise, on the people we work very hard to recruit, and we wish to retain our talent,” Riley said. “It would be a last ditch effort to have layoffs.”

Rising costs are the result of several factors, including a fully operational patient tower and a busier than anticipated emergency department.

Patient visits to the ER rose from 45,000 in 2005/2006 to more than 50,000 this year, Riley said.

According to a report by the Ontario Health Coalition, at least half of the province’s hospitals are or have been running deficits this year.