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January 31 , 2006

Tommasina Conte
London Health Sciences Centre
519-685-8500, ext. 77062
e-mail: Tommasina Conte

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


London hospitals announce steps to reduce costs

Two-year plan to increase hospital-generated revenues and reduce costs will save $9.2 million at St. Joseph's and $13.7 million at LHSC

(LONDON, Ontario) - London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph's Health Care, London, today announced $23 million in combined savings and revenues to be phased in over the 2006 and 2007 fiscal years. The hospitals are required by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to balance their budgets by the end of the 2007 fiscal year, March 31, 2007.

"The Ministry's balanced budget process obliges hospitals to make difficult choices," said Cliff Nordal, president and chief executive officer of LHSC and president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph's. "The steps we are taking will not reduce patient care volumes or access to care; however, they may result in some inconvenience to patients and the loss of valued professionals at our hospitals."

Total job impacts include the reduction of 117 full-time and part-time positions, 61 at St. Joseph's and 56 at LHSC. However, because many of these reductions will occur through attrition and the elimination of current job vacancies, St. Joseph's and LHSC will only issue a combined total of 35 layoff notices as a result of their savings and revenue initiatives.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has reviewed the separate submissions of the London hospitals, both of which sought to minimize job loss through attrition and early retirement. Other measures include new automated banking machines that return a portion of revenues to the hospitals; an adjustment to staff parking fees; sharing of digital imaging and lab services across the city; and a reduction in leadership positions. The hospitals have also reduced some costs as a result of the acute care restructuring moves that took place throughout 2005.

"LHSC and St. Joseph's are leaders in pursuing collaboration, integration, and demonstrating efficiency," says Nordal. "However, the reality is that we cannot meet the Ministry's mandate for balanced budgets through cost-savings alone: We must be appropriately funded for the level of service we provide to our community and region."

Part of the provincial government's hospital accountability plan requires hospitals to identify and implement savings that do not reduce access to care or patient care volumes. This does not preclude the possibility that the Ministry might require the hospitals to make additional program or service cuts in order to balance their budgets.

Both St. Joseph's and LHSC have held extensive discussions with the Ministry on how they will reconcile their outstanding deficits by the end of the next fiscal year. Final budget figures for the hospitals will not be confirmed until their Hospital Accountability Agreements, the final outcome of the Ministry negotiations, are signed by the Boards of Directors of each organization.

"We continue to meet with the Ministry and our elected officials," said Nordal. "We just don't have the answers yet to know if further tough choices will be needed."

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 8,000 and together they provide care for more than 650,000 patients each year.

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.