Rare NHH surplus can make a difference

By Cecilia Nasmith

Once the auditing is completed, Northumberland Hills Hospital is expected to be in the position of having a budgetary surplus.

Tom McLean reported at the May hospital-board meeting that not only does this achieve the provincially mandated requirement for a balanced budget – it also offers the opportunity (which the board approved in a subsequent motion) to restrict these funds toward a separate account to support the cost of a new Clinical Information System.

Hospital president and chief executive officer Linda Davis's report gave some background on the CIS, a set-up that offers secure management of electronic patient records in a manner that provides the necessary access for a given patient's interdisciplinary care team.

“When in place, this system will harmonize all the necessary decision making and reporting information,” Davis's report said.

The current system in place is 20 years old and unsuited to future needs. Even now, she said, it is posing challenges to clinicians and resulting in an unwieldy mix of electronic and hand-written records, making follow-up, contextual decision making and secure, appropriate information sharing difficult.

By modernizing the technology, she estimates that NHH will be well positioned for another 15 to 20 years.

“Many other hospitals in the province have rapidly advanced their progress and provided many benefits to patients a a result.”

It's something funding must be found for regardless, McLean said, something the foundation might have difficulty supporting alone. By taking part of the surplus and putting it into a separate bank account and designating it as funds for the new Clinical Information System, this particular journey can get started.

It's an approach the auditor is comfortable with, he added.
“We have gone through the process of looking to see if we are not following an appropriate route, and we are. In fact, I think it's just prudent treatment, putting aside funds as best we can.”

As for the amount of this fund, he said, it is yet to be announced.

The motion passed allows for a similar treatment of any surplus in future years, Davis said, providing they are in the same advantageous position again.

“The auditor said you can legally put aside some of the funding in a separate account, and they have given us the structure on how to do it.”