The numbers finally came in, but they're not being shared with media or the public.
That was the word coming from the Sun Country Health Region with regards to the expense comparisons between St. Joseph's Hospital and Weyburn General Hospital.
City and RM of Estevan officials, St. Joseph's board of directors, as well as The Mercury and other agencies had been seeking the cost comparisons between the region's two major acute care centres for the past three years and on Feb. 22 the documents were delivered to the St. Joseph's Hospital board of directors, shared for an evening, and then returned into the care of the Sun Country administration without public or media exposure.
The cost and overall financial comparisons were requested so that these agencies could address perceived financial and worksite inequities that might have existed between the two major acute care facilities in the local health region
"We were informed it was to be shared only as a board-to-board internal document," said St. Joe's board chairman Don Kindopp.
"It was interesting but didn't set off any alarm bells in the areas where we could make direct comparisons; you know, the areas where we could actually compare apples with apples and not apples with oranges," he said.
For instance, he pointed out that expenses related to St. Joe's dialysis unit has no counterpart in Weyburn, nor do the financial details surrounding Estevan's maternity services since Weyburn General does not provide that service either. The fact that Weyburn's hospital is older and is spread over three floors is also a factor that makes it more difficult to make direct comparisons, Kindopp said, as did Marga Cugnet, interim CEO for Sun Country who informed The Mercury that the comparison charts or sheets would not be released to the media.
"There were some direct comparisons while in other areas we could only do assumptions or estimations, so those weren't necessarily true comparisons," she said.
"But the two boards can learn from each other as to what can be done and what can't. The break out of the figures wwas transparent, but only as an internal document," she said.
Lori Carr, Estevan's representative on the Sun Country board, said she viewed the documents and felt they required "a lot of interpretation since Weyburn General doesn't really have a budget of their own."
She was referring to the fact that as an affiliate health care centre, St. Joe's is required to publicly produce an annual budget and financial statement separate from the Sun Country annual reports as well as being included in their overall statements.
Estevan officials often railed against that scenario, pointing out there needed to be accountability regarding equitable treatment throughout the region, while asking for the Weyburn General's numbers to be "broken out" from the Sun Country's financial statements. Previous CEOs and boards had promised to do that, but it was only last week when the figures were delivered and then they were apparently accompanied by the suggestion that there would have to be a lot of translating and assumptions made in the process.
"Yep, there was a ton of assumptions," said Carr, "but at the same time, the comparisons that could be made didn't scare me, and we see where the vice-presidents of various services were working together to see what can be shown and shared."
Carr went on to note the ensuing discussion did not go into additional funding needs and that everyone acknowledged that St. Joe's was required to keep a separate set of books whereas Weyburn's hospital worked within the global budget.
What Carr said she disagreed with was the fact that the documents were "handed out and then they took them back with (I hope) an understanding that the board members and managers will get an internal document later that can be studied."
She said that by not leaving copies available to management or administration, it would be difficuilt to implement changes or do comparisons in the future that were called for in the presentation.
"As far as I was concerned, there was nothing to hide, especially with the apples to apples comparisons, but the board determined they wouldn't go public."
Carr is the lone Estevan representative on the 10-member board of directors that is appointed by the Ministry of Health.
Carr concluded by saying she could see where the local fears and concerns could have been registered, but they were probably alleviated, at least to those who saw the documents on the 22nd.
Cugnet said that in other Sun Country matters, a primary physician resource plan has been formulated. That will give the region more information regarding physician needs, how they can work in groups and networks making it easier for them to balance lifestyle issues while providing less disruption in service to the public. She said the plan even involves such things as physician and patient travel patterns.
As for the needs assessment survey that needs to be completed to allow a fund-raising effort to move forward for a new Estevan Regional Nursing Home, Cugnet said the acute care study was stalemated for a period of time but will be resurrected with the assistance of consultants.
She said other studies being undertaken involve radiology services and nurse practitioners who are now located in Carlyle and Maryfield while one practitioner splits time between Midale and Lampman and one more is scheduled to begin work in Bengough in May.