Puvirnituq hospital recovers from years of financial bleeding
Quebec writes off $100-million deficit, administration stabilizes
PUVIRNITUQ — At the reception area of Inuulitsivik hospital in Purvirnituq, Louisa Tulluaga and Annie Tulugak deal with telephone calls — in three languages — and help direct patients and visitors.
On the ward nearby, Véronique Tremblay, Jeannie Nappatuk and Jacinthe Boutin consult on a case, while in an adjoining room, Marie-Pierre Larose tries to cheer up Adamie Ohaituk, 10, who’s having a cast put on his broken leg.
When you ask the deputy general, Gérald Garneau, and the financial director, Lewis Lavoie, how things are going at Inuulitsivik, they both say “very good.”
The hospital finally appears to be back on track after years of teetering on the edge of financial collapse.
After battling, without success, an accumulated deficit that grew to more than $100 million, the 25-bed hospital managed to produce a surplus of more than $500,000 last year.
Inuulitsivik was able to do that because Quebec decided to write off the hospital’s long-term accumulated deficit, Garneau said.
At the same time, Quebec increased the hospital’s budget by about $18 million to roughly $90 million a year.
The political will had changed, Garneau said, of the decision to erase the deficit and up the budget.
Before that move, Quebec’s health and social services department covered Inuulitsivik’s deficit every year, but it charged interest, which added even more money to the accumulated deficit.
The hospital, which employs 1,000 part-time and full-time workers on various rotations, also provides health care to the seven Hudson Bay communities and takes care of patient services for Nunavimmiut in Montreal at the Northern Quebec Module.
The continuity of the current hospital management also helped to persuade Quebec to give Inuulitsivik more money: Garneau and Lavoie have been there for four years, while the general director, Jane Beaudoin, has been there for three years.
Before they arrived, for more than 10 years, the management of Inuulitsivik suffered from a revolving door of hospital administrators.
Things got so bad that in 2007, Dr. Vania Jiminez, Inuulitsivik’s director of professional services, compared Inuulitsivik’s condition to an abscess ready to burst: the director of nursing had quit, along with several nurses, and doctors were overwhelmed.
Quebec was looking at a formal trusteeship for the troubled hospital.
In 2006, cutbacks affected services at Inuulitsivik, which, before that, had suffered huge payroll errors, an exodus of management, staff and board members, and serious work safety problems.
While there’s still turnover, there’s no mass exodus of health workers at Inuulitsivik. In fact, Garneau said the workforce remains “quite stable.”
“When people leave we replace them,” he said. Inuulitsivik is also bringing on $3.3 million a year worth of new hires, including more specialized nurses and a mental health worker.
You can always find four doctors in Puvirnituq, two in Inukjuak and one in Salluit, he said. As for nurses, they can get a northern leave that allows them to work in Puvirnituq for shorter or longer periods, so there’s turnover, but often the same people return.
Many of the non-medical staff are Inuit and when it’s a job that Inuit are qualified to fill, Inuit fill the jobs, Garneau said.
Now Inuulitsivik can look forward to an expansion. Last June, it opened a 24- bed transit, a new youth protection building is going up this summer and plans to enlarge the hospital built in 1986 are under way.
Not bad for a hospital that only five years ago was compared to a painful infection.