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Health authorities amass $100 million surplus at March 31, 2003 year end - survey

For the second year in a row, B.C. health authorities are racking up multi-million dollar budget surpluses, according to a survey carried out by the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).

Twelve months ago, the health authorities warned they faced continued cost pressures. Some forecast sizeable deficits while others predicted only modest surpluses for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003. But according to the survey, the same health authorities will salt away close to a $100 million surplus for the fiscal year.

The figures were provided to HEU by five of B.C.’s six health authorities, and are year-end projections of financial performance prior to formal audits commencing in the weeks ahead. Only the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority chose not to provide budget status figures.

The banner year comes on the heels of a miraculous turn around for 2001/02. That’s when the same authorities, including the VCHA, forecast a combined deficit of more than $140 million, but then reaped a surplus of almost $50 million.

“These financial results contradict Victoria’s claims that our health system faces financial meltdown,” says HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt. “Yes, the system faces pressures. But these new figures create doubts about their scale. “The situation is so uncertain that an outside expert should be called on to clear things up.”

At $56 million, the biggest surplus was recorded by the Interior Health Authority. It had originally forecast a surplus of $7 million. The Fraser and Provincial health authorities are in the black $13.5 million and $15.7 million respectively. The Vancouver Island Health Authority turned a break-even prediction into a positive balance of between $4 and $8 million. And Northern Health Authority officials say they’re on track to achieve a $4 million surplus.

Administrators caution that the surpluses occur for a number of reasons including delayed program startups and other one-time events.

Stephen Howard, communications director,
at 604-240-8524