The Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region posted a $15.2M deficit for 2015-16 but its CEO says funding increases and cost savings through staffing and overtime will get the region to balance.

"I am confident as CEO that we will work hard to achieve the savings," said Keith Dewar, president and CEO with RQHR.

"It won't be easy based on the demographics that we are facing."

The number of people covered by RQHR over the past 10 years has grown by more than 45,000 people.

The demographic changes include:

  • Increased immigration to Saskatchewan.
  • Baby boom in recent years.
  • Aging population. 

All of that is now is now coupled with the province facing tough economic times, which is providing more financial challenges, according to the region.

The province provided $10.3 million to offset inflation and demographic changes.

"We have people waiting in emergency that we wish weren't," Dewar said. "We've got our wait times and surgery growing so it's a bit of a challenge for us as well. But we do know there's a resource limitation. You hear that from the premier and the finance minister as well."

RHQR's operating budget for 2016-17 is $1.04B, up from $1.02B in 2015-16.

No cuts to staff

RQHR will need to get to a balance because health regions are not supposed to run deficits. The region said it will find its savings mostly through appropriate staffing levels and reducing overtime.

"It's not about finding someone and laying them off but it's more so finding opportunities where a position is vacant where you can realign some work and then use that money to help fund it," Dewar said.

In 2015-16, the region reduced overtime 36,000 hours, saving $1.2 million.

Keith Dewar

RQHR president and CEO Keith Dewar says posting a deficit in 2016-17 is not an option because health regions are technically not supposed to balance or have a surplus. (CBC)

Dewar credits Lean with cost savings

The Lean initiative, which went provincewide in 2010, aims to cut out waste and save money in the province's health care system. Dewar said Wednesday that Lean is working for RQHR.

"We would not have found that much money in efficiencies if we didn't have a focus on continued improvement and for us the tools were Lean."

Review of health regions welcomed

Both Premier Brad Wall and Finance Minister Kevin Doherty have discussed "transformational change" following this spring's provincial budget.

When it comes to change in the health-care system, the health minister said he plans to conduct a review of health regions and will appoint a commissioner to oversee the review. Dewar is in favour of the plan.

"I think that it's appropriate that government and the system looks to how we're structured because on the surface you say that many regional health authorities is too many," Dewar said.

"But it's not so much the number of them, it's how you work effectively together. I think that's what they are looking to accomplish and I think a good review of that is appropriate and timely."

Corrections

  • A previous version of the story said the operating budget was down slightly, in fact, the opposite is true. This story has been corrected.
    Jul 21, 2016 10:46 AM CT