Dollars to doughnuts

Brian Jones
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From the You Couldn’t Make This Stuff Up Department comes news the provincial government really can’t run a doughnut shop.

Purists will point out that the proper accusatory phrase for administrative incompetence is “couldn’t run a lemonade stand,” but in this instance the doughnut shop allegory is apt, since it is truth rather than hyperbole.

(Defenders of the government will jump in with a double-double dose of excuses: “That wasn’t Kathy. That was Eastern Health.” Hold onto that thought. It will come in handy 10 or 20 years from now as an excuse for the Muskrat Falls fiasco: “That wasn’t Kathy. That was Nalcor.” Whatever gives you comfort.)

But the inability of Eastern Health/the Government of Newfoundland (and Labrador) to earn a buck by brewing Tim Hortons is just the tip of the Iced Capp.

Far more troublesome is the inconsistency, illogic and irrationality of the statements by Health Minister Susan Sullivan and Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski.

Holes in argument

To cut $43 million from its budget, Eastern Health will eliminate 550 “full-time equivalent” jobs by leaving positions unfilled when people retire, cutting back on overtime worked by employees and cutting the hours of part-time workers.

Kaminski, Sullivan and Premier Kathy Dunderdale say there will be no layoffs, nor a decline in health-care services to patients.

This is where evidence emerges of why these people can’t run a doughnut shop.

They make a huge mistake, even before the coffee begins to drip, by assuming “no layoffs” means workers’ collective output will remain steady rather than drop. Actually, “no layoffs” means there will be no layoffs, full stop.

But there will be a decline in staff — by their own estimate, the equivalent of 550 people.

The reasoning of doughnut shop proprietors KSD (Kaminski/Sullivan/Dunderdale) is so stale it is inedible.

Worthless workers

To accept as true their assertion that services will not decline even though Eastern Health will have 550 fewer positions, we must also accept — and KSD must also admit — that those 550 positions did nothing to benefit patients.

KSD can’t have it both ways. They cannot, at the same time, assert those 550 positions were benefiting patients, but that their removal will not affect patients.

So, which is it?

Either those 550 positions brought benefits to patients, in which case they should not be cut, or those 550 positions had no impact on patients, in which case management should be asked, “Why were they there in the first place?”

If the latter is the case, the ineffectualness and “inefficiency” of KSD goes beyond the doughnut shop.


Floored by stats

Pour yourself a hot cuppa and try to make sense of Kaminski’s declaration that it costs $119 to clean a square metre of hospital floor in St. John’s, but only $70 — on average — to clean a square metre of hospital floor in the rest of Canada.

Moppers cleaning the floors at the Health Sciences Centre apparently cost $49 more per square metre than at other Canadian hospitals. It certainly can’t be because the wages of Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) far outstrip those of other Canadians.

No. By Kaminski’s own admission, Eastern Health has too many moppers.

But who hired all those moppers?

Weren’t they hired by the same agency that ran the doughnut shop?

This is indeed unsettling. The public relies on Eastern Health to determine, say, how many cardiologists and radiologists are needed in St. John’s, and yet Eastern Health is unable to accurately determine how many people are needed to mop the floor.

Perhaps the search for health-care “inefficiencies” should start right at the top.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: Tim Hortons, Health Sciences Centre, The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Petertwo
    June 02, 2012 - 05:23

    Bottom line, if governments do'nt spend then they lose. So they create to save losing income and having to reduce tax revenues.Best examples the firearm boondogle and the $40 million unity scandal. They did not achieve anything of much real value but helped keep up expenditures. If they run deficits they can always have a reason to keep taxation high and if there is an excess they have creative spending. Keeping the people financially, or ideology, captive ensures their futures, is what appears to have been the aim of most past governments. This seems to be changing with better communications than in the past. Maybe governments want to dump health care- one financial vehicle- in favour of privatization? It can be a political nightmare for them, being dependent as they are on the voting public and with media spin doctors breathing down their necks. As the old saying goes- it is hard to drain the swamp when you are up to to your rear end in alligators trying to take chunks out of you.

  • Sick from HEALTHcare
    June 01, 2012 - 10:58

    This is a PROVINCIAL STRATEGY gone wrong and now they need a PLAN to fix it. A strategy is knowing where we want to be. A PLAN, according to our premeir's account, is how do we get ourselves out of this mess we've put us all in. If we don't plan a strategy then this is what we get. If our hospitals are so poor run then you'd think it wouldn't be so hard to reach benchmarks...but here we are!

  • Terry Murphy
    June 01, 2012 - 10:31

    I really don't understand why Brian Jones is so uninformed about this. The bottom line is Eastern Health is losing money and has to examine where they can save money so they run their shop more efficiently. There will be no full time positions cut as a result of the announcements, that has been clearly stated. What are the solutions he poses? Fire Vicki Kaminiski? As I see it she has been nothing but effective since she was hired. Does Jones suggest we leave this situation as is and change nothing. That is not a solution, it's just allows the problem to persist. He is uninformed and clearly is protesting these initiatives for the sake of whining. I believe this is a responsible action, and for one support these changes.

    • Holden
      June 01, 2012 - 11:17

      Yes Terry you are the only one in Newfoundland who is informed. One thing I don't understand is, if a statement for the coffee shop was prepared at the end of each year, why didn't anyone in management not know or care. Also if a member of The Telegram could see these problems with the governments rational why didn't someone ask for an explanation at there news scrums. The only way to stop government from using these questionable statements is to confront them when they make them.

  • William Daniels
    June 01, 2012 - 08:27

    Well said. Kaminski can blow smoke about coffee shops but mismanagement is the big problem.

  • my tax money
    June 01, 2012 - 08:00

    if kaminsky was running a private healthcare system and after several years into the position she declared that it had all the inefficencies that eastern health has, what would probably happen is, as Donald Trump would say, Kaminsky YOUR FIRED!

  • Patience or patients
    June 01, 2012 - 07:34

    I'd say there were so many partonage donuts and coffee flying out that there was not room for profits let alone patients. Scrap this system and sell it off for parts like was done with FPI. The premier said it was a black hole and won't explain why in the house and thats our leader! Eastern health and gov won't be satisfied until its service will be just a waiting room before the morgue.