Like all District Health Authorities, South Shore Health was given the same amount of funding from the province as last year. They were asked to absorb increased costs associated with wage increases, inflation and program operations, as well as any new cost pressures. This resulted in a total shortfall of approximately $1.8 million.
The business plan was approved by the Department of Health and Wellness two weeks ago. South Shore Health’s CEO Alice Leverman says the plan reflects South Shore Health’s commitment to managing and controlling cost pressures through administration first in order to protect patient care.
The plan includes increases in the rates South Shore Health charges for out of country residents as well as other uninsured services to more accurately reflect the cost of delivering these services. It also includes a new fee for blood collection at clinics outside South Shore Regional, Fishermen’s Memorial, and Queens General Hospitals.
Beginning Sept. 6, 2011, South Shore Health will charge a fee of $10 for collecting blood at satellite clinics in Caledonia, with a reduced rate of $8 for frequent users.
“We know that blood collection at satellite clinics is important to our communities,” says South Shore Health VP medicine Dr. Peter Vaughan. “Charging a fee will help us offset the growing costs of providing this service and help ensure we are able to continue to offer this as a convenience to these communities.”
The service has been offered free for the past several years, and Leverman says although the decision was necessary, it was one that was quite difficult to make.
“It wasn't something we wanted to do, but given the pressures and the need for us to protect our patient care services, regrettably it was a difficult decision that we had to make,” says Leverman. “To have to begin to charge a fee when we have not had to do that for so many years is difficult because we know that for many of our population, any additional costs that they have to incur, especially those on fixed incomes, it can be very difficult for them. That was a big concern for us at both the staff and board level.”
Blood collection will continue to be offered at South Shore Regional, Fishermen’s Memorial, and Queens General Hospitals at no charge. However, Leverman says South Shore Health is working to come up with a plan for those who don’t have access to any of the hospitals, and are unable to afford the fee.
“We are going to look at how we might be able to support those individuals. We recognize that this may pose a challenge for some of our citizens, and certainly our intent is not to create hardships for anyone, although we recognize for some this may be difficult,” says Leverman. “We haven't finalized that, but we should have some more information in the next few weeks.”
"We know that blood collection at satellite clinics is important to our communities. Charging a fee will help us offset the growing costs of providing this service and help ensure we are able to continue to offer this as a convenience to these communities.” - South Shore Health VP medicine Dr. Peter Vaughan
Approval of the business plan will also allow South Shore Health to move forward with a proposal to close five Alternate Level of Care beds, which are intended for individuals who are waiting for another level of care in another part of the health system.
The funds will be reinvested into primary health care and emergency department improvements. This will result in additional health care providers and resources in the emergency department and in the community to improve access to primary health care.
“It’s a reallocation of those resources to where it’s needed. We are working on all levels of the system to improve access to the system and flow to the system, so that people receive the care that they need at the right place at the right time,” says Leverman. “While there may be concern about the fact that we are closing beds in the hospital, we are working on all aspects of the system so people get where they need to be in a timely way.”
While South Shore Health continues to experience bed pressures and overcrowding in emergency departments, Leverman says the opening of 95 new nursing home and residential care beds in the District over the past year has significantly reduced the number of patients waiting in hospital for alternate level of care.
With an aging population and high rates of chronic disease, Leverman says there will always be demands on the system. In order to continue with a successful system, she says it has to be continuously worked on and changed to fit the needs of the community.
“The more effort we put in the community on supporting individuals and helping individuals, the less need there will be for people to move into the hospital system over time,” says Leverman.
Leverman also says the plan is consistent with South Shore Health’s priority to improve patient access and flow through the system. It aligns with Better Care Sooner, the government’s plan to improve emergency care and reduce the wait to see doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.
“Access to primary health care is a growing concern for our communities. This initiative is about investing our dollars in an area where we can have the most impact,” she says. “We must challenge ourselves and our system to do things differently. This plan will allow us to invest where it’s needed most to better support our communities’ needs.”