Auditor general targets Eastern Health finances in latest report

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on January 23, 2014

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.