The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance continues to show signs of fiscal improvements under the new leadership, ending the 2017-18 fiscal year with a slight surplus.
According to CKHA officials, for their year-end, March 31, they sported a $2.2 million surplus.
“It’s a 1.5-per-cent surplus, a small percentage when you consider the size of the operation,” Lori Marshall, CKHA president and CEO said. “But that is money you can take forward and reduce your debt or purchase capital equipment.”
For the fiscal year 2016-17, the alliance had a balanced budget. Rob Devitt, appointed by the province to clean up the governance at the CKHA, came on board in September of 2016 and started the belt-tightening.
The previous regime had put the alliance deep in debt, as it had a line of credit that reached $10 million.
That figure is down to $8 million, a level reached a year ago. Marshall said it wouldn’t move this year, as the surplus is earmarked for the CKHA’s new health information system.
“We do want to continue to work towards reducing that line of credit,” she said. “We’re planning on another balanced budget for 2018-19, and hopefully another surplus.”
Marshall and Greg Aarssen, chair of the CKHA board, in their discussion with local media on Friday, also discussed how the public is embracing the new administration and governance model.
Aarssen said the alliance recently held four community engagement sessions in outlying communities, and that they were well attended.
“People have returned to feeling they have ownership of their hospitals again,” he said of the responses.
He said the CKHA mission: one team, two sites is the priority. After the previous regime had tried to close the ER in Wallaceburg, and there was a large degree of infighting between the three hospital boards, the province appointed Rob Devitt to supervise a rather extreme makeover over the governance model.
The CKHA now has one board, one administration, but two sites in Chatham and Wallaceburg.
Devitt was in Chatham-Kent for about 18 months overseeing changes and rebuilding administration, as well as developing the plan for the new governance model of one board.
Aarssen said his work is greatly appreciated.
“He made some really good hiring decisions,” he said. “Rob really cared first and foremost about the level of care provided and the health and safety of staff.”
In honour of Devitt, Aarssen said the alliance has erected bicycle racks outside both hospitals.
“Rob’s love of mountain biking lives on in Chatham-Kent,” he said.
The Wallaceburg campus recently received provincial acknowledgement for reducing wait times. Marshall said the respiratory therapy program there is running 24/7 now, and wait times for pulmonary function testing at both hospitals is down to one or two weeks, when it was once as long as six weeks.
The CKHA will see accreditation checkups this fall. Marshall said a team of experts, which includes administrative peers and even patients, would examine operations at CKHA in October.
“We’ve been assessing everything from an operations perspective,” she said. “Do we meet the standards? This will identify our strengths and areas we do well in. We’re looking forward to it.”