Montreal

MUHC could close beds to balance budget

The McGill University Health Centre could be forced to scale back the number of beds available at the superhospital only eight months after it opened in order to avoid running a deficit next year.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette says funding for 91% occupancy rate isn't in plans

The new MUHC superhospital opened in April 2015. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The McGill University Health Centre could be forced to scale back the number of beds available at the superhospital only eight months after it opened in order to avoid running a deficit next year.

Ian Popple, a spokesman for the MUHC, said the province's funding for clinical units, as of April 1, 2015, is based on an 85 per cent occupancy rate. 

But the MUHC's clinical units have an average occupancy rate of 91 per cent, he said. 

"If the funding structure and higher occupancy rate remain unchanged, we could have a year-end deficit varying from $31 million to $40 million," Popple said in a statement, adding that talks are underway for how to structure funding for next year.

Popple said cutting back on the number of beds at the superhospital is one option, but no final decisions have been made.

He said beds at the MUHC's Lachine location — and jobs at its neo-natal care unit, which until recently had been short on staff — will not be cut.

High occupancy rate costly

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said the MUHC's 91 per cent occupancy rate isn't in the provincial budget. 

Barrette suggested the MUHC superhospital should be diverting more patients to other hospitals in areas such as Montreal's South Shore. 

Last August, a critical nursing shortage in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) led to claims that the hospital was putting babies' lives at risk. (CBC)
"Every hospital has to function with a margin," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak

"The funding is an average. You cannot work in any hospital on a permanent basis on 100 per cent capacity."

Amy Ma, co-chair of the MUHC patients committee, said the MUHC has a hard enough time dealing with the large number of patients it serves without having to close beds.

"Well, before the doors of the Glen [superhospital] opened, we were already having trouble because there was a backlog already existing in the whole healthcare network for the whole island of Montreal," she said.

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