Sound management to protect the future of health care in the Northwest

Edmundston, October 25, 2013 – The Chief Operating Officer of the Northwest Zone of Vitalité Health Network, Pierre Verret, reviewed the efforts under way to improve the efficiency of the health care system and control expenditure growth in his region’s facilities and programs.  

Provincial context

The financial situation in New Brunswick is a difficult one, as indicated by the government’s $508 million budget deficit in fiscal year 2012-2013. The province’s health care budget accounts for approximately 40% of the overall provincial budget. Health care expenditures per capita also exceed the national average, and this represents an additional annual expenditure in the order of $158 million per year for the province as a whole in 2013. Over the past ten years, the budget of the Department of Health has increased by $1 billion while the population has remained stable.  

According to Pierre Verret, the managers of the system must act now to protect the sustainability of the province’s public health care system for future generations. “To achieve this, we must take steps to improve our performance and use taxpayers’ dollars more effectively while at the same time delivering safe and high-quality services,” he stated.

For a better performing organization

Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information indicates that the Network’s overall performance is nearly 25% below the national average and nearly 12% below that of Horizon Health Network. “This means that, everything else being equal, we are using more resources to deliver comparable services,” Verret explained.  Since employee salaries and benefits represent nearly 75% of health expenditures, the Network must increase its productivity and innovate in its service delivery based on best practices and national standards.  Teams are in place in each of our facilities to review all our processes, identify potential improvements, and implement performance enhancement measures while maintaining service quality. 

The Chief Operating Officer of the Northwest Zone acknowledged that any period of change can create uncertainty. “We are not questioning the excellent work that our employees are performing. The transformations that we are implementing are designed to achieve better resource utilization while continuing to provide the public with quality services. The areas most affected by the changes will be administration, administrative support, licensed practical nurses, and patient care attendants. We are doing everything in our power to minimize the impact on our employees by emphasizing attrition as well as retirement departures. Our ultimate objective is to prevent job losses wherever possible,” he continued. 

According to Verret, the Network is implementing additional measures to decrease its employees’ sick leave rates, which are nearly 20% above the provincial average. Simply achieving the provincial average could allow the Northwest Zone to save over $700,000 per year.
For non-salary expenditures, including medical and surgical supplies, office equipment, and travel, the Zone has saved nearly $900,000 during the first six months of the current fiscal year, which represents an 8% decrease in these sectors.

No service cuts in the Northwest

Health care investments are continuing to be made to ensure ongoing improvement in our ability to meet the public’s changing needs. The Network is currently managing capital projects at various stages of completion valued at nearly half a billion dollars. According to Verret, the Northwest Region is in no way neglected in this regard. “The project to build a new addiction services centre in Edmundston is moving forward,” he stated. The region has also benefited from a number of major investments in recent years:

  • Renovation of the ambulatory care, medical imaging, and laboratory sectors of the Grand Falls General Hospital – $6.2 million;
  • Oncology Clinic at the Edmundston Regional Hospital – $1.8 million;
  • New MRI unit at the Edmundston Regional Hospital – $2.8 million;
  • Major equipment valued at $1.2 million in 2013-2014.

This demonstrates that many strategic health investments have been made in recent years and will continue to be made in the future. We have also met a growing need for eye care with the arrival of a second ophthalmologist who began his practice in August 2013.

The Chief Operating Officer of the Northwest Zone pointed out that no health service to the public had been cut in the region as part of Vitalité Health Network’s efforts to improve its efficiency and better control its expenditure growth. “I wish to reassure the public that we continue to offer the same services. In fact, we will be taking steps in the near future to assess the population’s health needs so that further improvements to our services can be made,” Verret concluded.