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Top executives out of jobs with new health authority

Region inherits $136 million deficit The newly created Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA) has just scrapped 25 per cent of its top executives in an effort to become more efficient.

Region inherits $136 million deficit

The newly created Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA) has just scrapped 25 per cent of its top executives in an effort to become more efficient.

"That's really the objective of all this kind of restructuring at least at the administration level – less duplication, fewer people, less bureaucracy," said communications director for the VCHA Clay Adams.

"The ultimate goal is to put dollars into patient care."

The cuts come as health authority president and chief executive officer Philip Hassen announced the appointments of a nine-member executive team to lead the authority.

The jobs of three former CEOs have now essentially been rolled into one.

Brian Kines from Sea to Sky, Wendy Turner from the Sunshine Coast and Bill Chrysler from Powell River have been let go and replaced by Catriona Park, the former director of continuing care for Coast Garibaldi Health Services Society.

Park is now director of rural health for the North Shore/Coast Garibaldi health services delivery area.

"It is good for us (in the Sea to Sky community) because (Park) is very familiar with the region and the challenges of population growth," said Fran Cuthbert, the former chair of the Sea to Sky Community Health Council Board.

"(The) Sea to Sky (region) has different challenges than the Sunshine Coast and Powell River."

The former CEOs were well known, experienced administrators in their communities with separate duties under the old structure. But in the new organization their positions overlapped.

"Before each of those CEOs reported to their own board... well, you don't have that anymore," said Cuthbert.

"You just have one big board. I think that was foreseeable that they were duplicate positions."

This announcement is part of the first wave of restructuring in the new health authorities, which started last December when the government abolished the 52 regional health authorities and their boards, replacing them with five larger health authorities and a Provincial Health Services Authority.

At that time the Sea to Sky and Coast Garibaldi Health Services were folded into the VCHA, which includes Vancouver, Richmond, and the North Shore.

Restructuring from the top was one of the first tasks of the health authorities and the VCHA, which is the largest health organization in Canada. Serving over one million people, it is the first of the five health authorities to announce its new executive team.

The nine executive members will now be responsible for producing their own teams.

"The expectation will be that those executive team members produce teams that are efficient and basically not over administered," said Adams.

"What that will mean in terms of numbers? I don't know. Each of them will have to make that decision. Is there going to be an across the board loss of managers, directors, and so on? I can't answer that question."

Cuthbert does not think the 25 per cent loss of upper management will have an effect on patient care.

"Not if you have a good structure in place," she said.

Once restructuring has happened one of the first tasks of the amalgamated VCHA will be to tackle a projected $136 million operating deficit for 2002-2003.

"That's no small change," said Adams.

"We are going to have to work very closely with the communities right across the whole region to find out ways of getting that money back. Does that mean a reduction in services? Does it mean increased revenue? These are things we are looking at right now."

Before the 52 regional health authorities were abolished, the Sea to Sky area operated with a very small deficit on a tight shoestring budget.

While the area is traditionally under-funded, according to Cuthbert, it is also particularly fortunate in that it generates quite a bit of out-of-country revenue with its high tourist population. This out of country revenue has been used to enhance many of the area's programs and keep the deficit at a manageable level.

But with amalgamation there is concern those tourist dollars will go into the bigger operating budget rather than staying in the community. When the merger joined the health regions together, Sea to Sky inherited deficits from other regions. For example, Vancouver brought about a $50 million deficit to the new larger authority.

Now it will be every region’s responsibility to help bring down the deficit.

"In the longer term we should see more money available for patient care versus administration dollars," said Adams.

"On the other hand, we're facing real budget issues and with that will come obviously some changes to the system and the kind of programs and services that are delivered and where they're delivered. Exactly what they are, it's too early to say."

These are still early days yet and the full effects of restructuring will not be noticed until much later.

"I think for Whistler, with the trauma care volume (and so on), that there are a lot of good resources to tap into and be applied here," said Cuthbert.

"But I think we have to get some rules of the game sorted out on the funding side."