POLITICS

Merged Nova Scotia health authority criticized for lack of details on savings

06/03/2015 03:42 EDT | Updated 06/03/2016 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's opposition parties say a business plan for the new amalgamated health authority isn't clear enough on where projected savings are coming from.

Maureen MacDonald, the leader of the NDP, says the Nova Scotia Health Authority's projected $1.82 billion budget is short on specifics on how it will result in savings in comparison to the expenses of nine separate agencies that existed until the April 1 merger.

The authority provided a list of annual savings totalling $41.5 million in its business plan released Wednesday.

However, MacDonald says the document is too general and it's unclear if the cost savings will also mean a cut in services.

"There's no detail. We have no idea where these cuts are going to come from. It's not a business plan as I understand business plans," said the former health and finance minister.

Health Minister Leo Glavine says the province will release more details on how the savings will occur as time goes on.

"As the district moves along I'll ask for a quarterly update on the work of the provincial health authority and as the year goes on we'll be able to say to Nova Scotians, 'Here's where we made savings,'" he said.

The list does detail that there will be $6.2 million saved on salaries due to fewer health executives, and it predicts bulk buying will save money.

However, another section of the report says there will be $10.6 million in savings from, "health service planning i.e. capacity management, service delivery, improved utilization, management structure leaning."

Progressive Conservative Health critic Chris d'Entremont said in a news release that vague descriptions lead him to be suspect there isn't a clear plan in place.

"If the Liberals cannot even get the numbers right on paper or explain them, how can we trust them with patient care?" he said.

The opposition parties say the projected spending by the authority is about $300 million more than the total the Liberal government budgeted for the authority, yet there are few details on where the additional revenues are coming from.

Janet Knox, the chief executive of the authority, said about $160 million is funding the hospitals and clinics receive from other aspects of the health budget, while about $140 million comes from internal sources of revenue such as fees charged to out-of-province patients, parking and retail sales.

She said the authority is still reviewing how to co-ordinate services in the merged system, and more information will be provided to the public in the future about specific changes.

"It is work that will continue on for several years," she said.

Knox said initial reviews done as a result of the health merger have found ways to increase access to services "because we became more efficient and could see more people."

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