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Getting out of debt

Stanton board aims for balanced budget

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Oct 02/02) - Debt reduction has not taken precedence over dealing with staffing issues and ward closures at Stanton Territorial Hospital, according to board chair Larry Elkin.

NNSL photo

The cost of health

  • 1999 - budget $48.2 million; $300,000 surplus.

  • 2000 - budget $47.1 million; $1.3 million deficit.

  • 2001 - budget $48.7 million; $1.8 million deficit

  • 2002 - budget $56 million; $916,000 surplus plus $1.06 million government deficit bail out.

  • Range Lake MLA Sandy Lee has been very vocal in her belief that too much priority has been placed on debt reduction instead of managing service levels. Elkin said that is just not true.

    "We haven't dealt with one issue at the expense of the others," said Elkin.

    "When we had the problems we obviously spent the time needed to put that to bed. That wasn't an option we wouldn't be responsible if we didn't do that."

    The Stanton Territorial Health Authority's accumulated deficit climbed to $1.8 million in 2000-01.

    The figure is a far cry from the $300,000 surplus the board had back in 1999.

    In years ending 2000 and 2001 the board struggled to balance their books as the accumulated debt rose from $1.3 million in 2000 to $1.8 million in 2001.

    In 2002 the board managed to get back to the black with the help of an operating surplus of $916,000 and a government one time bail out of $1.06 million.

    The one-time deficit funding was provided to all NWT health boards.

    "It shows very strong financial support from the Department of Health," said Dennis Cleaver, CEO of Stanton Territorial Hospital.

    "The one time funding has helped us away from making cuts to programs and services. Without government support we would have had to look at the possibility."

    The surplus that helped bring the board out of the red was contributed to government funding over a number of initiatives, lower than anticipated fuel costs and savings due to vacant staffing positions.

    This year the board is aiming for a balanced budget.

    The board even budgeted for a staff shortage.

    "We know positions will be filled, but given the size of our operation and the turnover we did allow for some vacant positions throughout the year," said Cleaver.