Telegram readers asked, and Vickie Kaminski answered.
Eastern Health’s CEO spent an hour on thetelegram.com Tuesday responding to questions. The topics ranged from bedside care to her renumeration.
“What is your annual salary and perks?” asked “Sandy.”
Kaminski’s reply: “Presently annual salary is $352,240. In addition I receive a $10,000 car allowance, and $35,000 in lieu of benefits for pension and housing.”
All of her replies were arguably as candid, and yet she deliberated carefully on everything she posted.
The Telegram asked Kaminski to participate in the forum because of recently announced cost-saving measures.
Eastern Health is eliminating the equivalent of 550 positions over two years, through attrition and things like reducing overtime.
The moves are expected to save $43 million.
The cuts haven’t sat well with Eastern Health’s unionized employees, and some of their concerns were raised in Tuesday morning’s questions.
“Being a nurse with (Eastern Health) I was shocked about the comment that we have the highest number of hours at the bedside than the rest of the country,” wrote someone who signed in as “guest.”
“One would think that this is a good thing isn't it? The amount of time I spend at the bedside is not near enough what I would like to which is due (sic) to patient workload! Ongoing evaluation and assessment of the patient is needed to provide the best care possible. If we are not frequently at the bedside how can we even do this?” continued “guest.”
“Hours at the bedside are not necessarily the issue,” Kaminski replied. “The cost of those hours is our biggest inefficiency. For example, if we are using a nurse at overtime, that costs us 18 hours of care for a 12 hour shift. So becoming better at how we staff and utilize the hours we have will lead us to a more efficient operation.”
The CEO noted there are times when many extra hours of care are needed for some patients and times when fewer hours are required.
“Our problem has been an inflexibility in determining which is which, sometimes brought about by automatic staff replacements from central staffing, sometimes from inconsistent workload measurement, and sometimes from poor management,” she said.
There was also a question pertaining to Eastern Health’s image.
“Robert” wrote: “One of the big things that worries me is the overall lack of public support of our health care system. This has been the case as far back as the start of the public reviews ... and has not changed. How do you plan on gaining back this support from the people of this province?”
To that, Kaminski replied, “I have seen a minor shift in public trust and confidence and actually hear very frequently from people in the general public that they feel we are more open and forthcoming which helps with public trust. The best way to gain their confidence, though, is by performing well, and that is the goal of every employee at Eastern Health. We will continue to monitor our patient outcomes and report on them regularly.”
In her closing remarks, Kaminski asked people to be patient.
“I know there is some skepticism and a lot of concern about our efficiency plans,” she wote. “I would ask you to give us the opportunity to make some changes, evaluate them and determine our success at achieving these goals. We will keep quality of care and access to that care as our top priority.”