Emergency visits down, salaries up in Island health care

Nigel Armstrong
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Health P.E.I. delivers annual report with $548 million in expenses

P.E.I. admitted 15,900 patients to hospital last year. They received a total of 170,000 patient-days of care with 10,500 surgeries performed.

Health P.E.I. spent more than expected last fiscal year, especially in three areas — hospital care at the QEH and Prince County hospitals, long-term care, and drug programs.

Denise Lewis-Fleming executive director of financial services for Health P.E.I. delivered the news during her report to the annual meeting recently.

Health P.E.I. paid out some $548 million for health care on the Island last fiscal year, about 42 per cent of the entire government budget, she said.

Just over 43 per cent of that health spending went to hospital care, some $233 million, said Lewis-Fleming.

P.E.I. admitted 15,900 patients to hospital last year. They received a total of 170,000 patient-days of care with 10,500 surgeries performed.

“The actual length of stay is about three days longer than what would have been expected, comparing ourselves to peer hospitals,” said Lewis-Flemming.

There was good news in one aspect of hospital care.

“Our emergency department visits have decreased from the previous year,” she said, down to 100,631 — a drop of about 1,500 visits from the previous year.

Hospital costs do not include doctor payments, she said, but it does include salaries for other health workers.

In fact, of the total $548 million in health expenses, about 65 per cent of that goes to salaries, some $354 million across the entire system.

“A significant chunk of our budget is spent on our health human resources,” said Lewis-Flemming.

Health P.E.I. spent 1.8 per cent of its budget on administration costs, she said.

It received $24.7 million more from government this past fiscal year than in the previous year, but of that increase, some $8 million went to increased wages and benefits from collective agreements. Supplies also rose in cost, taking another $2 million of the budget increase.

“There was (also) some investment in ambulance services,” said Lewis-Flemming. “There was some enhancement done in the West Prince area as well as in the Kings County area.”

Long-term care took 13 per cent of total health expenses, including $1.3 million for new long-term care spots across the province.

“I fully realize that the financial numbers do not always tell the whole story,” said Lewis-Flemming.

She cited how elderly people are waiting a long time in hospital beds for community supports to be in place or for a long-term care bed. That in turn can delay surgeries because there is no bed available for the recovering surgical patient.

“We continue to work every week, I could probably say every day, with the department to identify possible strategies to address these pressures,” said Lewis-Flemming.

Geographic location: Iceland, Prince, West Prince Kings

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Recent comments

  • Concerned Islander
    November 26, 2012 - 15:52

    As an educated Islander, I would be asking more questions of Health PEI . It seems that there is much more to this scenario than can be printed in a small online article. Perhaps, if these articles do not depict an accurate picture of the politics of the situation, then nothing should be printed at all. As for the care providers in health care, I commend most on them who work on this "little" Island. They have devoted years to education to serve the people of PEI and they do so on a reduced salary when compared to the rest of Canada. The cost of living in PEI is no longer so affordable that we can use that excuse for not paying them on par with their counterparts. For the most part, they serve Islanders with care and compassion second to none. To these people, thank you. I know it can't be easy when you are feeling less valued than other professionals across Canada. I, for one, appreciate each and every one of you!

  • Wayne MacKinnon
    November 22, 2012 - 10:01

    Whatever way you look at it;our healthcare system is broken and not sustainable.We cannot afford to allocate 42% of the revenue to service healthcare,which increases yearly and expect to maintain this service for very much longer. Why is our healthcare in such dire straits? Political incompetence and ignorant and uninformed Island voters. When you view the two main hospitals on PEI,one sees two state of the art facilities. The successive governments continue to spend excessive tax dollars on bricks and mortar. This is how they reward their party faithful; who own the construction companies; who either get paid to build these grandiose facilities or are hired and paid 6% of the total cost of the work being done as project managers. Public Works has qualified people on the taxpayer payroll to administer the project managerment component of these massive expenditures of taxpayer's money. But these qualified individuals are left to sit in their offices while the politically connected are rewarded these patronage plums. Just look at the expenditures to educate our children on a per student basis;most of the money is spent on building new schools. Would our academic scores be so low compared to other areas of Canada if the politicians spent more resources on developing new,more modern curriculum,new text books as opposed to new buildings? I hope enough people will understand what I am attempting to point out to everyone reading this post.

  • Ed Gallant
    November 21, 2012 - 18:49

    These figures are astounding.Aside from the cost, the two things that stick out in my mind are (1) Length of stay.On avg.,patient stay is 10.7 days.15900 patients/170,000 patient days.That's 3 days longer than peer hospitals. Why is this (2) Number of surgeries. 10,500 surgeries on 15,900 patients is 66% or 2 in every 3 patients. This seems very high considering the size of QEH and PCH surgical facilities.Of the total amount spent on health care, $548 Million, that's $3,914. for every man,woman and child.The $233 Million spent on hospital care represents a cost of $14,654. per patient, per stay, not including doctors salaries.The last cost that seems high is the $10,900,000 of administration costs. I for one would like to see an annual statement of all my charges to the health system. If everyone got a year end statement and saw what there trips to health care facilites cost the taxpayers, they may have a different view of running to the doctor or emergencey room each time they have a cold. Health care will never decrease as long as we, the patients, are kept in the dark. Annual statements are a must. Any monies that Health PEI may realize by shutting down rural hospitals will just disappear somewher else in the system. I don't believe there is any great urgency to reduce spending. There seems to be an urgency that the spending is only done in certain facilities. Everyone should demand that they recieve an annual statement detailing all the charges attributed to them.This will also lessen the chance that there may be any fraud in the system. We get statements from just about every other orginization that we deal with, why not health care. Ask for it.

  • ME
    November 21, 2012 - 16:12

    Close all but 2 hospitals, no other area in Canada has as many as we do (5,6,7?) for 140 000 people, it's absurd... Islanders entitlement knows no bounds and it is killing our province.

  • intobed
    November 21, 2012 - 16:03

    I think the emergency care at the QEH is excellent. I have elderly relatives, and each time I have had to bring them to Emerg the staff was kind and considerate. That is, once they got to see them. Do you think the emergency visits are down due to the eight hour waiting times? Just a thought.

  • HUGE, challenge for Islanders.
    November 21, 2012 - 15:17

    Okay, since there's little transparency and even less expert analysis, for now let's settle for some grade 5 math. $354 million for salaries to maintain most health services across the entire system. On PEI there's 57 725 people between the ages of 15 and 60 (potential taxable incomes - median age on PEI is 42.6). That's a cost of $6132 per "wage earner" per year. Let's also remember that the average income for Prince Edward Island families is $41,500, (below the Canadian average) and that provincial personal income taxes are above the Canadian average at 18.37%. Yikes. Here's another question: Approximately half of the population of the province lives in the Charlottetown area, actually 64,487. Does that the Charlottetown area pay half of the $548 million for health care? That's approximately $8500 a year per person! Grade five math aside (at least it's math) all this points to a huge, HUGE, challenge for Islanders. And don't let the foolish tell you differently, all this makes the Plan B pavement, and other scams, look even more idiotic. Perhaps, almost criminal? We should not continue to hide our heads under the sand and allow this, or any other government, to spend where it's neither wanted nor needed. Pavement or palliative care, the choice may just be that simple . . .

  • Joe Blow
    November 21, 2012 - 13:29

    Makes perfect sense!! People are overpaid so much that we cannot afford to have more staff so therefore the patients are forced to wait longer times to see a doctor and never actually get seen. Maybe if people in Health PEI didn't have such bloated salaries....they could spend more money on more doctors and nurses and patients would actually get some of the care they are paying through the nose for!! When you have crooks running the province, this is what you get! Start cutting people at the top that have cushy jobs and are making thousands of dollars too much and have 3 or 4 assistants who are actually doing their job.....if we start cutting these people....maybe we'd have an economically run province and healthcare system.

    • Whoa Mr. Blow
      November 21, 2012 - 17:07

      Bloated salaries? Our teachers, doctors, care workers, all make less here than anywhere else in Canada! If Mr. Joe was premier 9 (or paid for 5 to 11 years of the required schooling) we'd all be working for even less.

    • secondsoberthought
      November 22, 2012 - 08:57

      You have it wrong. Bloated salaries? You must be joking! Whenever a person spends thousands of dollars to acquire a PhD...and perform the work they do....I would think no amount of money would be sufficient!