For the first time in a decade, Grey Bruce Health Services is headed for a deficit.
GBHS president and CEO Lance Thurston says a $2-million shortfall is projected for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019.
The last time GBHS ended in a deficit position was in 2008-09, Thurston notes.
Thurston says it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid deficits due to "inflationary pressures" within the health care system.
He says GBHS has also been dealing with higher in-patient and out-patient activity levels.
"People are sicker and we're dealing with a really big pressure on the system to get people back home," explains Thurston. "Volume has increased dramatically the past year and a half, and it's at a sustained level."
"We have a significant capacity issue," continues Thurston. "More activity means more people, more staffing hours and more equipment used."
Thurston says the capacity and patient-flow issues have left GBHS having to spend additional funds to address them.
He says more money is being put towards emergency departments and adult mental health and addiction programs to stay on top of surging capacity.
"And, unfortunately, we aren't receiving additional revenues for that at this point," Thurston says.
He says since hospital funding models were overhauled years ago, GBHS has been reliant on the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care to make adjustments to the budget near year-end.
"Whether it's a one-time infusion of money to help balance the budget, or a longer term increase to our base budget," explains Thurston. "It has been through those interventions from the Ministry that has kept us financially afloat."
The new Progressive Conservative government has not made any similar commitments yet to intervene and provide funds, Thurston says.
The Grey Bruce Health Services president and CEO says staff are internally looking for savings without dramatically affecting service levels.
Thurston says in the past two years GBHS staff have identified $2.3-million of cost reductions through internal review, without any job losses or significant changes to service.
He says a third-party expert will also be hired to conduct a review of GBHS operations and identify areas where opportunities exist to find savings.
Ultimately, Thurston says changes need to be made in how hospitals are funded to maintain the level of care currently provided.
He says GBHS will advocate to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and Long and South West Local Health Integration Network for more funding.
"We need more money in order to deliver the level of care and the type of care that is required for Grey Bruce," Thurston adds. "The only way to sustain the model is to have a change in the operating funding model for hospitals.
"That is something that the LHIN and province have to wrestle with," continues Thurston. "And as you know the province is in a pretty tight spot in dealing with its own deficit. So it makes for a difficult time to try and ask for more money to deal with some really legitimate needs in Grey Bruce."
Grey Bruce Health Services operates hospitals in Owen Sound, Lion's Head, Markdale, Meaford, Southampton and Wiarton.