Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik June 13, 2014 - 4:21 pm

Nunavik hospital Tulattavik wants to trim transportation expenses

“Now we're facing a new deficit and trying to find a solution, because we shouldn’t be in this situation"

Kuujjuaq's Tulattavik health centre is pictured here as its patient transit centre undergoes renovations in 2011. (FILE PHOTO)
Kuujjuaq's Tulattavik health centre is pictured here as its patient transit centre undergoes renovations in 2011. (FILE PHOTO)

This isn’t the first time Tulattavik health centre in Kuujjuaq has faced a deficit, but the hospital decided to go public with its money troubles to stay accountable to its users, the hospital’s director of administrative services said this week.

The Kuujjuaq hospital announced May 29 that it would be making several cuts to offset an accumulated deficit of $6.8 million, which stems from its 2013-14 budget.

That’s after the Quebec government wrote off an accumulated deficit of over $100 million shared by both Tulattavik and Puvirnituq’s Inuulitsivik health centre in 2010.

But by the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year, Tulattavik was back in the red by $2.6 million.

“So this year, we decided to go public, because we’re in the public sector and we’re funded by taxpayers,” said Frederic Moisan, the centre’s director of administrative services. “It’s part of our responsibility.”

“We’re now facing a new deficit and trying to find a solution, because we shouldn’t be in this situation.”

While Tulattavik’s employees’ union has said health services in Nunavik are underfunded, Moisan said that the centre’s transportation costs are mostly to blame for its $6.8 million deficit.

That includes the cost of flying patients south for further care, medevacs from smaller communities and the cost of moving southern-based employees and equipment north.

Moisan said he couldn’t say what amount had been spent on transportation in 2013-14.

Tulattavik’s budget was $56 million in 2013-14, although the full budget will only be made public once it is presented to Quebec’s national assembly this fall.

But the health centre is already in recovery mode.

“What we’re doing right now is looking at every department’s expenses and revenue, and we’re trying to see where can save money, or find new income,” Moisan said. “There’s not a lot of room to be creative.”

The health centre is looking at the administrative process, the turnover of employees and ordering goods and equipment.

“We have to straighten out those procedures and get managers more aware of costs,” he said.

Last year, when Tulattavik realized it faced a budget of $2.6 million following its 2012-13 fiscal year, directors there commissioned an outside firm to look at its expenditures and make recommendations on how the hospital could cut back.

While the hospital has yet to release the report, a copy obtained by Nunatsiaq News lists recommendations to cut a number of positions, some of which are currently vacant.

The report also suggests the hospital start collecting rent from the housing it provides to employees based on unit size and number of rooms, and limiting the number and length of trips employees get as part of their contract.

“We’re looking at what we can put in place where we can use those recommendations while respecting employees’ contracts,” Moisan said. “And we have to put in measures that won’t affect he services to the population.”

The union that represents most of the hospital’s staff, called Syndicat des travailleurs et travailleuses du centre du santé Tulattavik de l’Ungava, has shared its own concerns that cutbacks will have damaging impacts on staffing and health care service for the Ungava region of Nunavik.

Instead, the union proposes that Tulattavik management stop contracting out maintenance projects or other services, review management structures and competencies while investing in training programs that would benefit the community.

In any case, the health centre must produce a balanced budget by the end of its next fiscal year, in spring 2015, and find a way to maintain it.

The Quebec law that provides for balanced budgets in the public health and social services network requires that every public institution must maintain a balance between its expenditures and its revenues.

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