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NHH extends its Shared Challenge, Shared Solution collaborative budget strategy to include public input

At the June 18 meeting of the NHH Board of Directors, a motion was passed unanimously approving the next steps to address the Hospital’s budget challenges through the establishment of a Community Advisory Panel.

Shared Challenge – Fiscal Constraints Remain Significant

NHH’s 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 operating budgets are due for submission to the Hospital Board and the Central East Local Health Integration Network (Central East LHIN) this fall. Budget preparations are underway and the Hospital Board and management have committed to first pursuing efficiencies and new revenues before
contemplating changes to services offered at the Hospital.

To address the fiscal pressures and operating deficit, in December 2008 the Hospital launched a collaborative budget strategy referred to as Shared Challenge, Shared Solution. Phase one of that strategy was an internal budget exercise — completed in March — which resulted in operating efficiencies of $1.4M. Nevertheless, NHH’s projected operating deficit for the 2009-2010 fiscal year is expected to be approximately $1M (or $600,000 on an annualized basis). For the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 fiscal years, the operating deficit may increase further as funding adjustments may not keep pace with inflationary pressures on expenditures.

“While work pursuing efficiencies and identifying new revenues is ongoing, the magnitude of our financial pressures is significant,” said Robert Biron, President and CEO. “The commitment to comply with the Hospital Service Accountability Agreement with the Central East LHIN requires NHH to balance its operating budget. We must commence the planning to consider options related to reducing the scope or volume of services provided to the community. At the very least, our Hospital requires a contingency plan that can be activated should the need arise in the future. This contingency plan would outline the services that would be affected in order to bring the Hospital’s budget into a balanced position.”

Results of Hospital Telephone Survey on Community Engagement

“Hospitals are now expected to develop and implement a comprehensive community engagement program in order to obtain public input on key decisions affecting their organizations,” said Robert Biron. “Given the many methods of community engagement we could choose, we felt it was important to take steps at the beginning of that process to be sure we develop a program that is right for our community. Our aim with this approach is to be inclusive, transparent and proactive.”

To that end, the Hospital conducted a telephone survey this April of a representative sample of the west Northumberland community. In addition, following a recommendation from the Northumberland Poverty Action Reduction Committee, face-to-face surveys were also conducted to ensure input from lower-income individuals who might not have been reached by a phone survey.

The purpose of the survey was twofold: one, to identify the means by which people gain information about the Hospital today; and two,
to identify residents’ preferred methods for becoming more directly engaged in potential changes in services provided by NHH.

The survey concluded that west Northumberland residents view community advisory panels and public meetings as the most effective methods for obtaining public input.

The complete survey findings are available on the Hospital website www.nhh.ca in the Shared Challenges, Shared Solutions section of the site.

Shared Solution – Obtaining Public Input Through a Community Advisory Panel

Taking the public input from the telephone survey into consideration, the Hospital Board passed a motion to “establish a Community Advisory Panel to address the immediate issue of developing a contingency plan for a balanced budget through changes in service should a balanced budget not be achieved through increased efficiencies and/or new revenues.” The terms of reference and plan for the Community Advisory Panel are subject to final Board approval.

Given the urgency of the budget challenges, the Hospital expects to have the Community Advisory Panel in place by early fall. The Community Advisory Panel will report to the NHH Board of Directors, itself comprised of volunteer representatives from the community served by the Hospital.

The mandate of NHH’s first Community Advisory Panel, then, will be to advise the Board on the potential changes in services that would result in a balanced budget. Work is now beginning to establish the Community Advisory Panel.

“NHH is embarking on new territory with this approach to hospital budget planning,” said John Hudson, Chair, NHH Board of Directors. “Given the implications of the difficult choices that may be at hand, our Board felt it absolutely essential to take the time to involve the community in the decisions before they need to be made. In this way, it is hoped that we can arrive at better decisions with regard to our budget and the services we are able to deliver with the funds available. We believe that we have a strong foundation with our community to broaden their engagement to include public input through the Community Advisory Panel.”

For further information please contact Jennifer Gillard at 905-377-7757 or jgillard@nhh.ca.

About Northumberland Hills Hospital

Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH) is located approximately 100 kilometres east of Toronto. The 137-bed acute care hospital delivers a broad range of services, including emergency and intensive care, medical/surgical care, complex/long-term care, rehabilitation, palliative care and obstetrical care. A variety of ambulatory care clinics are also offered at NHH. In addition to these, NHH also sponsors a Community Mental Health Centre and an Assertive Community Treatment Team.

The hospital serves the catchment area of west Northumberland County. A mixed urban and rural population of approximately 60,000 residents, west Northumberland comprises the Town of Cobourg,
the Municipality of Port Hope and the townships of Hamilton, Cramahe and Alnwick/Haldimand. NHH employs close to 600 people and relies on the additional support provided by physicians and volunteers. NHH is an active member of the Central East LHIN. For more information, please visit www.nhh.ca.