Auditor general targets Eastern Health finances in latest report

James McLeod
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Eastern Health is a financial mess, according to findings released today by the province’s Auditor General Terry Paddon.

In his annual report, Paddon said the province's largest health authority has been consistently running multi-million dollar spending overruns, even over and above the 22 per cent increase on funding they've received between 2009 and 2012.

And when it comes to the specifics of how Eastern Health is running the organization, Paddon found a litany of problems.

People were being overpaid due to bureaucratic oversights, 132 people drawing provincial government pensions were also getting salaries from Eastern Health and sick leave rates were 20 per cent higher than the core public service.

On overtime, one employee got paid more than $70,000 in overtime, above the regular salary. In 2012, more than 500 people received more than $10,000 in overtime.

Eastern Health CEO Vicki Kaminski said that at least on the overtime front, a lot of that can be explained because 24-hour operations and on-call employees lead to added expenses.

She said they try to avoid it, but in many cases it's cheaper to have an on-call worker than hire a second person, and in other situations, it's just hard to recruit additional workers.

As for the deficits, she said she's looking to eliminate those, but she said that an $8 million deficit is really very small when you think about the overall size of the organization, which has a budget of more than $1 billion.

Some areas, though, Kaminski acknowledged that Eastern Health just hasn't been good enough. In one instance the authority didn't reclassify workers following amalgamation of health authorities in 2005, and combined, 123 workers got paid at least $3.6 million more than they should have.

Similarly, she acknowledged that they currently employ more than a hundred people in unfunded positions. She acknowledged that it isn't good having so many people on salary when Eastern Health doesn't have approval to fund those positions, but she said a few years ago they had 500 or more unfunded positions on the books, so at least they're getting better.

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Recent comments

  • Cyril Rogers
    January 25, 2014 - 10:41

    The fact that Eastern Health is running a BILLION dollar entity says a lot. Despite corporate claims to the contrary, these monoliths are not as efficient as the corporate-minded governments and the business elite would have us believe. Having worked in both sectors, I see all kinds of ways that money could be spent more efficiently but, by and large, corporations don't really care as long as they are making money and the expenses can be written off. For Eastern Health, the same cannot be said, so they must find more efficient ways to function and the answer is not to merge smaller entities into one. In theory, this should produce more efficiency but it usually results in more excesses and flagging morale. The obsession with casual and part time workers leads to lots of OT and a lot of frustration by the regular workers and casual workers alike. Furthermore, the idea of people doing their 12-hour shifts, both days and nights, and only having a short time to switch from one to the other leads to health issues. How ironic that the Health Care System is run in such a way as to almost guarantee that people will get sick. The problem is that there are too many managers and not enough workers…an inevitable outcome of large mergers and centralized control.

  • Experienced Nurse
    January 23, 2014 - 14:35

    Firstly, yes Eastern Healths sick leave may be on average 20% higher than the rest of government, but while most other government employees finish at 4:30 and are guaranteed sleep every night, take into consideration most of Eastern Healths employees work rotating 12 hour days and nights (which suppresses the immune system) and often times are mandated to stay for additional overtime beyond their 12 hours. Also, last time I checked, unlike most other government employees, Eastern Health employees care for SICK people, meaning employees are at increased risk for contracting illness as a result of exposure. I think 20% is pretty good all things considered! Secondly, yes, retired nurses collect a pension and work sometimes return to work ‘casually – that’s probably why there was no competition number they were likely simply added to a call in casual list. People retire and sometimes return to work, not a new phenomenon, happens elsewhere in government, but before this upsets you understand that they make up a large portion of our workforce and in most cases with 20+ years of experience, they are very valuable assets to the organization. Perhaps we need to look at creating day time positions for these nurses to delay retirement. But until we do this or we create more permanent positions for new graduates (who have to leave the province for guaranteed employment might I add) we can not operate without our retirees in our casual pools. Thirdly, yes, overtime spending is outrageous. We need to invest that money into permanent full time positions at straight time. This past summer nearly every single 12 hour shift I worked ended up being a 16 hour shit. Its terrible working like this. We DO NOT want to be mandated to work OT. Create more permanent positions. Our current CEO MUST go.

    • dogloc
      January 23, 2014 - 15:56

      Good point,overtime can be eliminated by hiring more people & would also cut back on sick leave

  • Darrell
    January 23, 2014 - 12:00

    Anyone ever see a poor nurse? No wonder, they make more in overtime than the average persons gets in salary.

  • Disgusted
    January 23, 2014 - 11:40

    Vicki kiminski's annual salary is over $500 000 (yes over half a million dollars) hired from out of this province... Comes here to clean up the financial mess and look happens.... Creates a bigger mess... What has miss Kaminski done besides target the smokers and implement smoking bans in and around Eastern Health... Obviously another person needs to be forced out NOW!!! Go back where you came from Vicki, Thanks for Nothing!!! Enjoy all the $$$$ from us taxpayers!!!!

  • M.M Power
    January 23, 2014 - 11:39

    Eastern Health has always overspent because there are too many chiefs and not enough staff. Some of these people are not deserving of the salaries they receive and a lot of them spend too much time walking the malls when they are supposed to be on sick leave. Then there are some working their home business from government offices i.e. using their personal phones to book home business appointments etc. and the others in that office know it but let it happen. Then at Christmas time some offices have two hours lunch to make crafts. They need some undercover workers to see what goes on in government offices.

  • A campbell
    January 23, 2014 - 11:01

    The AG seems to not understand or refuses to acknowledge how injuries work at eastern Health. If an employee is injured on the job, then that employee by virtue of policy is required to use up any sick time they have available to them and only after it is used up does Eastern Health seek the services of WHSCC. This lowers the reported injury rate and reduces the payments to WHSCC by Eastern Health. This is one of the reasons for the high rate of sick time at Eastern Health.

  • JD
    January 23, 2014 - 10:54

    If staffing levels are correct, why is there any OT?

  • Linda
    January 23, 2014 - 10:49

    We need someone who got the CHEST NUTS to clean up this mess. Who not afraid to kick ass, there people all over this province who work hard all their life, who are going cold and hunger, This crap is going on with our tax dollars, where is our so call smart politician? Mr Ball now is the time for you to show leadership, or pissed off.

  • Gerry G.
    January 23, 2014 - 10:35

    Eastern Health has 20% higher sick leave rates? That's like saying that veterinarians have higher incidences of animal bites than travel agents.

  • Guy Incognito
    January 23, 2014 - 10:12

    Wasn`t Vicki Kaminski hired to clean up eastern health..... How long has she been on the job now.....and we are in worse shape than ever...... Next time job cuts come aroudn mabye they should trim some fat at teh executive level. Get rid of some of this beuracracy.....

  • Go Figure
    January 23, 2014 - 09:46

    I hate it when the Auditor General states the obvious. The initial outcry came from the general public for years, and now they say this? Seeing that "$70,000 paid to one employee in overtime" is disgusting. No wonder they don't have monies to spend on hiring, they give it all to the people that are already hired. Hire more staff, will in turn reduce the other expenses like Sick Leave. Duhhhhh!

  • DON II
    January 23, 2014 - 09:44

    It appears that if the Auditor General was empowered, funded and allowed to really dig to the rock bottom of how the financial system of the Government of Newfoundland including Town and City Councils is really run he would uncover much more waste, corruption, incompetence and abuse of tax payers money and there would be a lot more politicians and bureaucrats going out the door with the Premier!

  • Jon Smith
    January 23, 2014 - 09:43

    PC's have a lot to answer for: Per capita debt higher than Nova Scotia, Oil revenues squandered and no money set aside for the rainy days, loans to private company using the NL peoples resources (eg.Hydro at Deer Lake), The big giveaway to NS at Muskrat, Expropriating the environmental mess at Grand falls, and the list goes on.