NLCHI to be folded into Dept. of Health
June 2, 2021
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – This week’s budget in Newfoundland and Labrador announced that as a cost-cutting measure, the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information and the province’s 911 service will be integrated into the Department of Health.
Moreover, the Department of Health and Community services is slashing more than $3 million from building improvements, furnishing and equipment spending. And Memorial University’s school of medicine is losing $260,000 in operating grants.
There are promises to consolidate administrative costs of the province’s four regional health authorities (RHAs), but no mention of creating a single health board for the whole province, as recommended in the Greene Report.
Earlier, the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team (Greene) Report recommended a cumulative 25 percent reduction in healthcare spending over six years, but that does not yet appear to be in the works.
The sharing of administration costs would include payroll, accounting, IT and procurement.
Health Minister Dr. John Haggie (pictured) said about eight percent of the RHA budget currently goes to overhead, representing an annual expenditure of about $200 million. “Obviously, if we can improve on that, I think we’d like to.”
Some savings in overhead costs are expected by folding agencies such as the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information and the province’s 911 service into the Department of Health.
Asked whether any of these moves will result in job losses, Finance Minister Siobhan Coady said she expects the only losses will be due to attrition.
“We’re not expecting mass layoffs,” she told reporters. “What we are expecting is bringing into government agencies, boards and services.”
Coady repeatedly used the qualifier “mass” when referring to layoffs, suggesting at least some should be expected.
However, the Saltwire news service reports that Labour leaders in the province aren’t buying the language.
“It really doesn’t mean anything when you read between the lines of this budget,” Mary Shortall said of Coady’s wording.
Shortall, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, said she sees a lot of talk about “alternative service delivery,” “joint partnerships” and other terms that translate into contracting out and downloading services.
“I don’t think they wanted to just come out and say we’re going to cut, cut, cut, because they knew what the reaction would be from past austerity budgets,” she said.
Shortall actually quit a post with the Health Accord task force in January, citing what she saw as a lack of transparency and commitment to hear everyone’s voice.
Two other labour representatives saw the Greene Report’s influence on Monday.
“The Greene report is all over this budget,” said Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees.
“We know healthcare is under-resourced. We see every day the shortage of staff in long-term care. We see the shortage of staff in some of our acute care facilities. There’s nothing there to address that.”
The head of the Registered Nurses Union agreed healthcare needs more investment, not less.
“We have 90,000 residents in Newfoundland and Labrador without a primary healthcare provider, so we would have liked to have seen investment in primary healthcare models and investing in communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Yvette Coffey.