This week’s health care cuts

The latest health care cuts come from Annapolis Valley Health. I’m told that the clinics in Wolfville and Berwick are having their X-ray facilities reduced by 30 and 40%.

I’m told that prior to yesterday (May 7th) the EKW clinic in Wolfville took X-rays Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Now, they’re only taking them Tuesday and Thursday. That’s a 30% cut in services.

The WKM in Berwick took X-rays daily from Mondays to Friday. Now they will only do this Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That’s a 40% cut in services.

If you look at the days, that’s a five-day service down from eight days, but it looks like the Valley Health authority are saving on a staff position(s). I haven’t found any announced reason has been given to staff for the cuts.

I understand there are to be reductions in the ECG department.

Is it because of fewer X-rays being required or is this due to budget pressure? If it’s due to the budget, shouldn’t we question the business decisions of AVH executives? Earlier they made reductions to food services in the Kentville hospital that would save $100,000 a year. But for all the cuts they’re making, AVH president Janet Knox (who commutes from Halifax at what cost to the health authority) still thinks it’s acceptable to drive food across Kentville to provide a subsidized lunch for 160 workers at the corporate offices.

I understand that everyone at the corporate bunker pays something for their lunch. But they only pay the cost of the food, not market value. I don’t have a problem with providing food at cost in hospital cafeterias. People who are in the hospital under duress have access to this and shouldn’t be further penalized by having to pay restaurant prices. I feel that food-at-cost in the hospital is part of the universal access of our health care system. But why in gawd’s name are we subsidizing a lunch program for well-paid executives and white collar staff? They’re merely at work. They’re not under duress. What other civil servants and public employees get a subsidized lunch? What does this cost the system? Does their subsidized lunch come on the backs of our sick?

Knox says the food staff who work at the corporate bunker work reduced hours. Well, how many hours a day is this perk available? What does it cost? And why is that coming out of a budget that we’re told is so stretched? This is the same authority which traditionally has the highest overheads in Canada.

Annapolis Valley Health cut front-line services to the sick, but not lunch for the executives. It’s outrageous. And how wide-spread is this across the province?

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7 Responses to This week’s health care cuts

  1. Josh says:

    Food services at the Chipman Building also serve patients accessing mental health and addiction services – why do you repeatedly ignore that there are clinical activities at that site? Any do you have any evidence that food is served “at cost” at the Chipman Building? It certainly doesn’t seem to be the case at the VRH cafeteria (or that of any hospital I’ve worked in from Vancouver to Austria).

    • Josh,

      I ignore the clinical activities at the Chipman site because until Janet Knox’s March letter no one had mentioned these activities. If they do have clinics there, how many people are involved in them, why are they at Chipman and not at one of the other facilities – like Berwick or Wolfville – where their volume might have been reason enough not to slash hours?

      This brings up an interesting question. Why maintain executive offices in Chipman and not cut costs by moving to the upper floors at the EKM in Wolfville? That was once a fully functioning hospital. Now it’s a community clinic. There must be vast amounts of under-utilized space that could be used for treatments, executive offices and storage. That would eliminate the cost of operating Chipman. And AVH just spent $87,000 remodeling the kitchens. I know that’s for a community outreach program, but five months after completing this project, the health authority has only booked eight evenings. Hardly cost effective.

      But then in 2009 AVH administrative costs amounted to 8% of their budget. The national average was 5%, so they operated at 60% above the national average. In the last three years where is the evidence that they have chopped 60% off their administrative costs to conform to national standards? I haven’t seen any reduction in administration.

      As for food costs, I do know something about them. In my career I regularly speak with chefs, food and beverage managers and vice presidents, suppliers and consultants. Personally, I ate one-to-two meals a day for 252 days at VRH’s cafeteria. I did not pay what I would have paid in a restaurant for my meals and I appreciated that. I have also eaten at the VG. Again, the price was well below those of a restaurant.

      Even if addiction services are provided at Chipman, this is appointment – not emergency – treatment. People can schedule their day to fit around meals. It is not the same as the hospital setting where you are trapped by circumstances.

      As for costing evidence, how about AVH telling us how much this service costs? How about an explanation for why they provide it and if this is standard practice across all 10 health authorities?

      AVH, like other health authorities in this province, operate behind a veil of secrecy. Why don’t they explain the four areas where they were found deficient in their accreditation report and let us know if this is a repeat problem, how they plan to address it and in what time frame. And they could also tell us about their outputs, how they compare to other health authorities and hospitals across the province and country.

      • Josh says:

        I have no particular insights into why AVH chooses to locate facilities in one place or another. But only a handful of people working at Chipman are “executives”; the rest are secretaries, maintenance staff, etc. aside from the aforementioned clinical staff.

        As for EKM, the upper floors house the offices of Public Health. Hardly “under-utilized” space.

        And of course the cafeteria prices were below those of a restaurant… it’s a cafeteria. Same goes for the VG which is *hardly* a place to get inexpensive food. It’s pretty much on par with typical fast food prices, which should be not surprising.

      • Josh,

        You’re suggesting AVH is running their food services as a profit centre. If that’s so then Ms Knox could have mentioned that. I hadn’t seen that reflected in the financial statements and if they were making money from food they might have avoided the $100,000 in cutbacks that they instituted.

        I did see on their financial statements where AVH had increased revenue for hospitalizations by 60% in one year. A substantial portion of that came from hosting senior citizens waiting for accommodations in a long-term care facility. It was curious that this revenue source increased so dramatically when it did because that was the year we had an unprecedented increase in long-term care beds. Beds increased by 125 in a matter of months! But this also illustrates the massive problems with our placement process.

        Whatever the job classifications of the people working at Chipman, why would a cash-strapped health authority, which struggles to bring its costs in line with national averages, maintain such an expensive perk? According to their announcements they are trying to operate with fewer staff. Delivery of health care is their primary role. That requires people. So cutting the catering to healthy staff not involved in delivery of front-line care, would seem the most benign business move the administration could take to refocus the budget where is makes the most impact.

        Curious that Public Health has the top floor of the Wolfville clinic and the old nurses’ residence next to the hospital in Kentville. Maybe it would be cost effective and more efficient for Public health and AVH to trade office space? How convenient would it be to have the health care executives on-site at one of their facilities?

  2. woof says:

    I guess this article should be kept up and running since the latest announcements from administration of further cuts.This time its very deep cuts to the lab work at EKM and WKM.

    Keep tuned for the latest and probably weekly/monthly cuts from AVH.

    PS:If you’re waiting for any cuts to administration,sorry,that won’t be happening anytime soon.

    • According to Ms Knox’s letter to the editor in the Herald there were no cuts to the labs in AVH and no layoffs. There were “affected employees”, but no one lost their jobs. So why these cuts to service? Bet the subsidized lunch program to the corporate offices continues …

      • woof says:

        …the new english grammar!!

        No loss of jobs!?! I guess all these “affected employees” will be cramming into Valley Regional (into new positions they bumped others from). It’s going to be a tight spot. Walk into Valley most mornings at blood collection time and there are not many seats empty. Now take the 40-50-60 and up to 70 people that show up some days at EKM for blood work and put them into Valley’s waiting room along with the same amount from WKM.

        I hope administrators are going to be there to help usher the many, many older patients or will they be holding very important meetings? There must be a lot of innovative minds corralled together in the bunker at Chipman to come up with bold plan to cut services (and employment). If services for labs are cut by 50% (and x-ray by about the same number), what and where are these people going to be doing?

        There will be job losses (but not for administrators), but more importantly is the loss of services at EKM and WKM and the inconvenience that sooo many of these patients will have to contend with like long walks from Valley’s parking lot for many, many older patients, long waits for service, and long drives just to get the service.

        I guess when Ms Knox says “reasonable access to service”, it’s all in the interpretation of “reasonable”.

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