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Biggest financial deficit ever 'a concern but not a disaster'
Yellowknife health authority CEO talks about going $1.81 million over budget

Evan Kiyoshi French
Northern News Services
Friday, October 2, 2015

Les Harrison, CEO for the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority, said the authority's 2014-2015 year-end operational deficit - $1.81 million - is the largest "since the inception of the authority."

Harrison told those gathered for the authority's annual general meeting - at the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre Sept. 26 - the authority faces challenges in delivering "safe, quality care."

The authority is responsible for delivering services in the city, Ndilo, Dettah, Fort Resolution and Lutsel K'e and it receives most of its funding from the GNWT.

"It's a concern but it's not a disaster," said Harrison, referring to the deficit. "The challenge is we want to make sure we're providing safe, quality care."

Harrison said the authority is working to provide a base-level of care that is safe and up to standard, which has meant costs have been steadily creeping upward.

On Wednesday, Harrison said the deficit won't affect the operation or services of the authority. He said its total operating budget for the year was around $54 million.

"If you look at the size of the deficit relative to the budget, it's not going to affect our operations," he said, adding the reason the deficit has grown is an increase in demand.

"Physicians services is one of the areas that we're providing a lot of services in the community but the funding over the last few years has become a bit of a challenge. We're continuing to provide a high level of services to the community in order to keep up with some of the demands."

Positive survey results not necessarily accurate: CEO

Although a Yellowknife Health and Social Services client survey from the past year turned up a resounding approval of the organization's delivery of services, the results don't necessarily reflect reality, said the authority's CEO.

During the authority's annual general meeting Thursday, Les Harrison said the authority received 150 completed surveys over the course of the year, adding making the questionnaires easier to fill out could lead to more accurate responses.

The survey results showed 92 per cent of respondents rated care received and access to services as excellent or good, while equally positive responses were received regarding the "respectfulness" to clients shown by reception, administration, nurses and physicians.

Eighty-nine per cent said they didn't have to wait too long before their appointments

and 86 per cent approved of interpreter services.

But just 33 per cent of those surveyed knew how to file a complaint, which Harrison said is evidence the authority needs to learn how to better educate patients about the complaint process, and to figure out ways to get more of them taking the questionnaires.

He said only 18 complaints were generated during the year.

"Eighteen complaints doesn't mean we're doing everything right," said Harrison.

Staff reporting more incidents in 'safe reporting environment'

Safety incidents reported by health authority staff members have increased almost 50 per cent this year because they're not worried of being "chewed out" if they do, according to the CEO.

Les Harrison, CEO for the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority, told people gathered for the authority's annual general meeting last week that creating a safe reporting environment and educating staff on the importance of reporting has increased the total number of reports this year to 109 from last year's 59 and 57 before that.

"We're happy we have more incidents," said Harrison. "Our staff are starting to report more. It's a good thing."

Twenty-two more processing errors, 15 more cases of property damage, and six more cases of client aggression were reported and Harrison said it's because staff are more willing to come forward than they have been in the past.

"If somebody smashes the company car, in the past they might not have come forward because they were afraid of being chewed out," he said.

In the past employees might have heard a stern word or two after reporting incidents to management, but a reporting format introduced this year ensures employees can report incidents without fear of being told off, said Harrison.

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