The Quebec government is appointing a monitor to oversee the financial management of the McGill University Health Centre, in light of a damning report released Tuesday that shows the MUHC's deficit for 2012-13 could hit $115 million.

The 40-page report on the MUHC's governance and financial management, commissioned by Health Minister Réjean Hébert last September, shows the hospital administration has been downplaying the extent of its financial difficulties.

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The report's authors, led by Dr. Michel Baron — the former dean of medicine at Sherbrooke University and former head of health and social services for the Eastern Townships — conclude the deficit for recurring expenditures will hit a minimum of $61 million by the fiscal year end of March 31, 2013. 

That's a far cry from the $53 million deficit projected by the MUHC's executive director, Normand Rinfret, in an internal note made public earlier this week.

In fact, the report says the total shortfall will be much higher.

Factor in one-time real estate transactions and a shortfall from the Royal Victoria Hospital Foundation, and that deficit could be as high as $115 million.

To put it in context, $115 million is more than the total projected deficit of all other health care establishments in Quebec.

One month to come up with action plan

In response to those findings, Quebec Health Minister Réjean Hébert has named his special advisor Michel Bureau — a pediatrician, neonatologist and pneumologist and former dean of medicine at Sherbrooke — to make sure the recommendations of Baron's report are carried out.

Hébert has given the MUHC until Jan. 18, 2013 to come up with a plan of action and until March 31, 2015 to meet an absolute deadline to balance its books.

Cuts to patient services on the way

On Monday, the MUHC confirmed it plans to cut patient care in an effort to tackle its deficit.

That was before the release of the latest figures — and already, patient advocates were expressing their concern.

MUHC executive director Rinfret said cuts are likely to some patient services not "directly related" to the institution's mission of being a teaching hospital.

He said in the case of asthma care and kidney dialysis, for example, patients with less complicated conditions could be transferred to smaller hospitals elsewhere on the island of Montreal.

Patients 'losing faith,' advocate says

"Honestly, this is insulting for patients if not for citizens," said Paul Brunet, a patients' rights advocate. "At the end of the day, we don't trust our system anymore. We have to cut on bureaucracy, that's where it is costly."

Brunet said with the proposed cuts, added to recent allegations of misspending by some of the hospital's employees, patients are losing faith in the hospital.

A former director of human resources is being investigated for allegedly defrauding the MUHC of $1.6 million over a 10-year period.

McGill University is also suing former head of the MUHC, Arthur Porter, for nearly $300,000 it said the doctor owes.