Steep electricity costs put pressure on HHHS budget
By Jenn Watt
Published Oct. 4, 2017
The following are brief reports of items discussed at the Haliburton Highlands Health Services board meeting on Thursday, Sept. 28.
Haliburton Highlands Health Services was sitting with a small surplus at the end of July, reported Kathy Newton, chief financial officer.
However, keeping HHHS in the black is not without challenges and one of the biggest ones is hydro costs, which “continue to be high despite the rebate received in July.”
In the last year, HHHS spent $585,000 on hydro between all of its properties.
“In the past two years, we have seen a 60 per cent increase in hydro costs, despite a small increase in usage (11 per cent – resulting from growth in our services),” CEO Carolyn Plummer wrote to the paper in a follow up email. “We are working on identifying strategies to reduce usage without negatively impacting services.”
Within the Central East Local Health Integration Network, the regional organization that governs health care, HHHS is the only entity that uses Hydro One.
The other hospitals receive power from municipal services, which are cheaper, Newton said.
“The good news is, we’re working collaboratively with our LHIN to pursue cost relief and other ways to address or reduce some of these pressures going forward,” she said.
LHIN creating sub-regions
In an effort to better serve its diverse population, the Local Health Integration Network is creating “sub-regions,” the board of directors heard.
Haliburton Highlands Health Services will be grouped with the City of Kawartha Lakes.
“This is good news for us,” CEO Carolyn Plummer’s report reads. “As we have already been working within that LHIN division on a number of initiatives and are familiar with the various members of the health system community.”
The directive has been given to each of the province’s 14 LHINs as part of the Patients First Act.
HHHS submitted an expression of interest in participating in the planning table discussions.
New nurse executive
Plummer announced that a new chief nurse executive had been hired for HHHS. Laura Green joined the organization on Sept. 6. She will be working full time starting this week.
“Laura comes to us from Health Sciences North, which is the hospital up in Sudbury. She is actually an emergency room nurse by background and still maintains a casual position at the Espanola hospital at their emergency department,” said Plummer.
New whistleblower policy in place
Those working for HHHS who believe there is unlawful or unethical behaviour happening at the organization now have the tools to report their concerns using a third-party service.
A company that is external to the organization will handle reports from staff, ensuring anonymity and protecting them from reprisal.
“The whistleblower policy is intended to provide individuals with a series of options, both internally and externally, for reporting concerns regarding highly sensitive or unlawful issues in the workplace,” Plummer’s report says.
Anyone making a complaint using the policy should have “confidence that an investigation will take place and that he/she will be treated fairly and protected from reprisal,” the report says.
The whistleblower policy does not cover personal grievances about work terms and conditions, the report goes on to say.
Capital funding comes in
Almost $300,000 from the Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund has come in to help HHHS repair aging infrastructure. The GAIN building roof in Minden and the Haliburton hospital roof are on the list of projects as well as paving the CSS parking lot and replacing the nurse call system in both hospitals.
Doctor recruitment efforts continue
Dr. Kristy Gammon, chief of staff, said some progress has been made on recruiting new doctors for the area. A few people from HHHS went to the Queen’s University recruitment fair and found many keen students in the family medicine program.
“This was extremely useful. We hardly had time to chat amongst ourselves, we were busy talking to residents the whole time,” she said.
Gammon thanked Plummer for her efforts in recruiting doctors for health services.
“We’ve never had a CEO who’s been this committed and dedicated to helping recruit, not just for the hospital, but primary care,” she said.
Other items of interest
Board member Dale Robinson issued a letter of resignation to the board, which voted to accept his resignation with regret.
A rural health hub survey is available for the community to weigh in on. See the County Life special section page 19.
The Minden Hospital Auxiliary is holding a fundraiser in November. The dinner and auction has a “hoedown” theme and will include music by Highlands Trio. The event is Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Minden Hills Community Centre.