Friday, November 24, 2006

No from above, OK from below

What does it mean when a government board or agency approves an expenditure that has been explicitly rejected by the provincial government which funds it?

In NL we have regional health boards which receive funding from the province (not enough, some would say) to administer health and social services in their region. They are given just so much money and no more. Some Boards have landed in deep hot water for over-spending.

One service that comes under these organizations is staff pharmacists. These pharmacists have been agitating and launching a work slow-down in order to bring up their wages.

The Minister of Health, Tom Osborne, has been unequivocal - no way.

You would think that would be the end of it but you would be wrong.

Now the Eastern Health Board has announced a plan to address the shortage of hospital pharmacists with an $18,000 bonus to be paid out over the life of the current collective agreement which expires in June 2008.

Considering that those bonuses have to be allocated out of money that is allocated to the health board by the province, you have to consider a couple of questions.

First, what line item is that money being taken from and what else is not seeing a much-needed $1 million?

Second, if the board can just allocate $1 million on this kind of ad hoc basis, then what kind of financial controls, or potential surplus, do they have in place?

Third, does this mean that we will now see a bidding war for pharmacists, not just between this province and others, but within this province between board jurisdictions? Will other regional health boards in this province feel forced to match this offer?

Finally, will the province reimburse the board for this unforeseen $1 million expense? If so, then why didn't they just cover it in the first place. If not, where is this money going to come from.

This can't be the end of this story.

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