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Review of health authority ordered after budget mismanaged 3 years in a row

Nov. 4, 2013 — British Columbia's fastest-growing health authority has failed to manage its budget three years in a row, prompting the health minister to take "strong action" by ordering a review of its operations and leadership.


November 3, 2013
By The Canadian Press

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Terry Lake said funding for the authority has increased by six per cent
over three years, compared to 4.8 per cent at other health authorities.

"The
increases they’ve received have actually outpaced the population growth
so that doesn’t add up for us," Lake said Friday of the Fraser Health
Authority, which serves 1.6 million people in the region that extends
from Burnaby, to Hope, to Boston Bar.

He anticipates more money
will be needed for the health authority, which has been directed to
submit a revised plan for the remainder of this fiscal year and a new
three-year strategic plan by late spring 2014. The review is expected to
be completed by the end of May.

A committee of Health Ministry officials and health leaders will help the board put the plans in place, Lake said.

He
said the funding boost expected for the Fraser Health Authority means
savings will be found elsewhere, but that will be a challenge for the
ministry with a budget of $16.4 million.

Lake said he doesn’t anticipate any service cuts elsewhere.

"Essentially
this is the third year in a row where Fraser has had challenges meeting
their fiscal targets. Obviously there have been some concerns," he
said, noting congestion in hospitals is one issue that will be looked
at.

Besides the money issue, the review will consider different
ways of delivering health care as costs continue to rise across the
country, Lake said.

"When you look across Canada, in fact across
North America, you’re seeing that all governments are trying to do the
same thing because with five, six, seven per cent increases on a yearly
basis, the system is simply not sustainable."

British Columbia’s
2012-2013 budget noted health-care spending would increase by $2.4
billion over three years based on spending increases over the next three
years of 2.6 per cent each. That’s a drastic reduction from spending
hikes of seven per cent between 2005 and the 2008-2009 budget year.

Finance
Minister Mike de Jong was challenged when this year’s budget was
delivered on whether his government could keep health-care spending
increases contained to 2.6 per cent this year.

Fraser Health
board chairman David Mitchell said he supports the development of a new
strategic plan so service requirements can be met.

"We welcome
the opportunity to work with other provincial health leaders to share
best practices in a collaborative and constructive process," he said.

The
New Democrats say the government needs to take immediate action to fix
emergency-room overcrowding, inadequate staffing levels and increasing
patient volumes at Fraser Health Authority hospitals.

They say the government is merely "buying time with a vague plan to review the health authority."

"The
Liberals want to look like they are finding solutions to this totally
unacceptable reality, when in fact they have denied the problem and
failed to find a solution that will help patients today," said health
critic Judy Darcy.

The B.C. Nurses Union has complained that
patients are suffering in overcrowded emergency rooms managed by the
Fraser Health Authority, but Lake maintained the current review was not
triggered by any specific concerns.

In early October, the Fraser
Health authority opened Surrey Memorial Hospital’s new emergency
department at a cost of more than $500 million, but the union said it’s
still too small for the area’s growing population.

The health
authority apologized earlier this month after a 90-year-old blind woman
was discharged at 2 a.m. from Delta Hospital’s emergency department
while wearing her socks and bleeding from her arm following blood tests.


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