Health Sciences North has managed to eliminate its deficit and even report a surplus for the 2012 to 2013 fiscal year. The announcement was made at the hospital’s annual general meeting held Thursday night in Sudbury.

Even Denis Roy, the hospital president and CEO, couldn’t remember the last time the books were balanced.

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Dr. Denis Roy, Health Sciences North president and CEO (CBC)

"It’s been quite a while," Roy said.

At last year’s annual general meeting, the hospital was left to grapple with a $3.5 million deficit.

According to Roy and other hospital board members, there were a number of ways the deficit was eliminated this year, including a minor reduction of salaries and wages.

"We're talking about a one per cent type of thing," said Russ Boyles, chair of the board. "There were no layoffs, it was all done through attrition."

Other savings came with the closure of the final 30 alternate level of care beds in the Sudbury Outpatient Centre.

"Last year we thought that we had gone into a deficit because of the fact that we had to keep those beds open," said Roy. "That's why we closed those beds sooner than what the peer reviewer had suggested, and we don't necessarily regret doing that."

Health Sciences North does not have to give the surplus money back to the province. Roy says it will go towards next year’s budget.

A visit from Harvard

Recently Health Sciences North touted that it wanted to become the "Harvard of the North," so it seemed fitting that the keynote speaker at the annual general meeting came from that very institution.

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James Conway is with the Harvard School of Public Health (Hilary Duff/CBC)

The talk was given by James Conway, an adjunct faculty member at the Harvard School of Public Health and a former administrator at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

An expert in the field of patient and family centred care, Conway was in town to help Health Sciences North move towards that healthcare method, a goal the hospital announced during the launch of its strategic plan last week.

"For me, [patient centred care]

means the centrality of the patient in every decision," Conway said. "When I walk into a place, I am not looking for brochures or banners, I look for the simple things like eye contact. … One of the things that I was very struck with when I came to HSN was there was this big reception desk, but people stood in front of the reception desk, so they were removing barriers that might have been in the way."

Conway said he was impressed by the motivation of administrators and staff at Health Sciences North, and went as far as to say the hospital’s strategic plan goal of patient-centric care was "bold, but achievable."

"It’s very clear that there’s a commitment to be the best in the world in patient centred care," he said.