PA health region forecasting budget deficit for this year
Published Wednesday, November 21, 2012 4:36PM CST
Last Updated Thursday, November 22, 2012 8:57AM CST
The Prince Albert Parkland Health Region is forecasting a major budget deficit this year, and they say part of the problem is that they're paying for more overtime and sick days than they had planned.
Doug Dahl, with the health region, says that if nothing changes, the health region will finish the year $1.8 million in debt. “That $1.8 million, a big chunk of that is around those three components of sick time, workplace injuries, and overtime. So, we've been looking at what we can do to change the pattern of the last few months."
Dahl says if they can reign in those additional staff costs they can still balance the budget by the end of the fiscal year in March.
However, the union representing nurses says their members are overworked and burnt out. They say the problem lies with staff shortages, and that the health region brought this on themselves.
Union president Helen Sawatsky has a list of almost 300 job vacancies in the health region. She says many have been posted for months and her members are doing their best to pick up the slack.
“If they've worked plenty of overtime, I mean, they're going to get run down, then they're going to be calling in sick. They're not going to be any good to the employer. Or they're not working to their best and then the people they're working beside are going to have to pick up because they're tired."
The union also says overcrowding at hospitals is also affecting their members' health.
“If you don't have the space to work, you've got people in the hallways, you've got all of these factors, it is stress. It's going to be stressful on the worker because they're the ones taking the brunt of it, right?” says Sawatsky.
The health region says they understand working conditions are “less than ideal,” and they are working hard to fill vacancies.
If the health region is unable to reduce the deficit before the end of the fiscal year it will be the seventh time in the last ten years they've gone over budget. The deficit would be added to the region's accumulated debt.
A nurse practitioner checks blood pressure during an annual check-up (The Messenger-Inquirer / Gary Emord-Netzley)