Government & policy
Alberta Health borrows $220M from
EDMONTON – Alberta
Health Services is borrowing $220 million from the Royal Bank to help
cover a deficit that’s expected to reach $1.24 billion by the end of the
fiscal year, which ends March 31.
What’s more, further borrowing is in the offing. “We’re able to cover
our deficit at the moment,” said Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen
Duckett (pictured). However, he added that, “Obviously, if we continue
on our current trend, we’ll have to borrow some more, which is what we
said at the start of the year.”
Rising costs, such as those related to the H1N1 campaign, may drive up
the deficit, leading to the need for additional loans.
The Alberta health super-board has been searching for new ways to cut
costs. The board has received approximately 450 suggestions from
healthcare staff on how to save the system money. Duckett says he will
reward the best of these with prizes out of his own pocket.
The board continues to look for ways to save another $550 million each
year on top of the $650 million it says it has already found by
introducing voluntary retirement packages, leaving 650 job postings
empty and consolidating the payroll departments from the former health
So far, about 2% of employees eligible for voluntary retirement packages
have applied, although only a handful have been accepted to date,
“We’ve still got further opportunities,” he said.
“There’s a whole lot of other strategies we’ve got in play that we’re
still examining because as you appreciate, finding savings of this kind,
while still protecting access and quality, requires rigour and requires
us to work through this in a systematic and serious way.”
He said Alberta Health Services has no plans to lay off nurses and other
front-line health workers, even though salaries of doctors, nurses and
others make up the biggest portion of the health budget.
“At the moment, we have no plans for compulsory layoffs to achieve our
savings,” Duckett said.
Premier Ed Stelmach has also said no hospitals or hospital beds will be
closed if Alberta Health Services runs out of money in February, as some
analysts have already suggested.
But Alberta’s health superboard announced in September it will close 300
hospital beds over the next three years while creating more beds for
seniors in the community.
Posted Dec.10, 2009