District health cuts will mean 'hard choices'
The Nova Scotia government's demand for a three per cent cut in district health budgets means "hard choices" will have to be made, senior health administrators in Halifax says.
Allan Horsburgh, chief financial officer at the IWK Health Centre, said cutting $46-million will affect patient care.
"This amount of money is going impact care and it's going to have to change care. We will not be able to find $46-million through pure efficiencies," he said.
"It will mean potentially some services will be waitlisted longer or disbanded. We'll have to focus on urgent and emergent things first, obviously. But, yes, wait lists could increase and some services could be ratcheted down a little bit."
Amanda Whitewood, chief financial officer at Capital Health, said that cut in her district would mean having to find $21-million in savings.
Managers at clinics in the different districts will have to come together to recommend a consolidation of services, she said.
"Do we have services, multiple offerings of the same services, in close proximity? And is there a way that we can reduce that duplication and not impact our patients, our communities — not increase disruption to them?" she said.
Premier Darrell Dexter said upcoming cuts in health spending should not hurt patient care.
Dexter defended the planned cut to the district health authorities and the IWK Health Centre next year.
"Everybody is sharing in this, every department. If we're going to get back to fiscal health, we all have to work together to find ways to make that happen," he said Monday.
"We have told them that there isn't to be an effect on patient care. We believe that we can move through the system and find ways to customize the services and to reduce our costs in order to be able to meet our budget targets."
Dexter said many district health authorities are working closely with provincial officials.
A representative of South West Health said administrators would do their best to follow the government's directive, which came out last week.
Health is the government's biggest expenditure, accounting for about 40 per cent of the budget. Health Minister Maureen MacDonald said health budgets were growing by up to eight per cent a year, and that had to stop.
The Nova Scotia Citizens' Health Care Network said the cuts would likely mean longer wait times for patients and prompt health-care workers to leave the province.
Nova Scotia spends $3.8 billion a year on health care, or about 40 per cent of its total budget — its largest expenditure. The proposed spending cut comes as the province works to rein in a projected deficit this year of $319 million.