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March 27, 2007

Sarah Corrigan
London Health Sciences Centre
519-685-8500, ext. 77062

Linda Whitmore
St. Joseph's Health Care, London
519-646-6000, ext. 65294

London’s hospitals continue efforts to reduce costs

Sustaining access and patient care excellence a priority

(London, ON) - London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and St. Joseph’s Health Care, London (SJHC), today announced steps to achieve $18.4 million in combined savings and revenues targets to be achieved in the 2007/2008 fiscal year, which begins April 1. The steps are part of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s annual balanced budget process, which calls for hospitals to manage increasing costs while maintaining the numbers of patients treated in all areas of care delivery.

“Both hospitals were very pleased to reach recent agreements with the province on our levels of funding for this year and the next two,” states Jim Flett, Chief Financial Officer for both LHSC and SJHC. “The agreements are conditional on each hospital continuing service volumes and addressing rising costs within our approved funding levels.”

At LHSC, the plans call for a total savings of approximately $12 million, realized through a variety of cost-saving and revenue generation strategies. Included in these steps are the reduction of casual and contract staff hours, temporary contracts not renewed, positions not filled as a result of attrition, voluntary reduction in worked hours and early retirement offers. The steps related to staffing are approximately the equivalent hours of 140 full time positions. However, it is expected that less than 10 people will receive lay off notices as a result of these job-loss mitigation strategies. There are also plans to reduce overtime hours in nursing as part of a major recruitment drive to hire more full-time registered nurses.

Notes Jim Flett, “both hospitals have worked diligently to achieve revenues and cost savings before taking steps that impact people. While patient care volumes will not be reduced, care providers and patients may notice changes as some services such as, clinical nutrition, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychology and social work may shift to community providers.”

At SJHC, a range of steps are being taken to achieve a cost savings and revenue generation target of $6.4 million across the organization. Included in these steps is the reduction of 49 staff positions. Thirty-three people will receive lay-off notices as a result, and with early retirements, attrition and new positions, actual job loss will be reduced.

Dr. Gillian Kernaghan, Integrated Vice President Medical Education and Professional Affairs for both hospitals, states, “St. Joseph’s leaders have identified a range of revenue and cost savings actions, some of which do impact staff members. We are working hard to minimize any actual job loss.

One of St. Joseph’s largest steps is to consolidate some inpatient units in specialized mental health programs in order to address changes in inpatient occupancy rates as teams are now treating more people on an outpatient basis.

Adds Dr. Kernaghan, “While the number of inpatients may be declining in some areas, the overall numbers of people we are treating in mental health care is still on the rise due to success in recruiting new psychiatrists and other professionals. We continue to become a specialized resource for mental health care and in the coming year, we will be implementing more steps to improve access to the care we provide.”

Both hospitals’ spokespeople agree that without the recent funding agreements with the province, the impacts on staff and services could have been far worse. Concludes Jim Flett, “Being able to sustain care and at the same time continue to invest in teaching, research, technology and facilities is a continuous balancing act for academic hospitals. Now that we know our funding levels for the next several years, we will be better able to support our staff, look ahead to future planning and find more opportunities to improve access to high quality care.”

London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is one of Canada’s largest acute-care teaching hospitals and is dedicated to excellence in patient care, teaching and research. LHSC has pioneered many national and international medical breakthroughs. Located in London, Ontario, LHSC encompasses three sites, South Street Hospital, University Hospital and Victoria Hospital; two family medical centres; and the London Regional Cancer Program. LHSC is the home of the Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario and CSTAR (Canadian Surgical Technologies & Advanced Robotics). LHSC is affiliated with The University of Western Ontario. Physicians and staff at LHSC number more than 9,000 and together they provide care for more than 1 million patients.

St. Joseph’s Health Care, London is a major patient care, teaching and research centre with a distinguished legacy of service to London, Southwestern Ontario and the veterans of Canada. St. Joseph’s five key role areas include acute/ambulatory care, rehabilitation, specialized mental health care, long-term care/veterans care/specialized geriatric care and complex care, including palliative care. Facilities and services including St. Joseph’s Hospital, Parkwood Hospital, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care and Regional Mental Health Care London and St. Thomas are part of the St. Joseph’s family. More than 400,000 patients annually receive care from close to 6,000 physicians and staff at St. Joseph’s. St. Joseph’s is affiliated with the University of Western Ontario.