Northern Health reported a balanced budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year on Friday, but with a smaller surplus than the previous year.
Revenues increased by 5.8 per cent to $691 million for the fiscal year ending March 31, but expenses were up 6.6 per cent to $690.3 million. The surplus of $700,000 was significantly smaller than the $5.6 million reported a year ago.
"We are mandated to run a balanced budget," spokesman Steve Raper said. "In the last couple of years we have come in with a small surplus, which in a $600 million budget is still relatively insignificant."
The biggest spending increase came in the area of residential care, with Northern Health spending $93 million last year, a 21.1 per cent jump from the previous year. Raper said it was largely due to a change in the rates that clients were charged for the service. The province mandated any extra revenue generated by the rate change had to be reinvested back into the residential care service.
Northern Health was able to cut costs in two areas, year over year. Spending in the population health and wellness division went down 8.6 per cent to $34.3 million and it was down 6.1 per cent in the corporate category to $63 million.
"One of the things we've really been working hard to do, and we've certainly had a mandate to do as have all health authorities, is looking for where we can reduce administrative costs," Raper said, noting that can include cutting back on travel, using less paper and using more energy efficient technology.
Although its surpluses are small compared to its overall budget, Northern Health is able to use the excess money for capital projects.
Raper said although some other health authorities in the province have stopped publishing annual reports, Northern Health still believes its an annual accountability tool. This year the organization published the report online and organized it thematically.
The annual report highlights package also listed all the capital projects that took place last year. In the Northern Interior region, $8.6 million was spent at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. on cancer strategy projects. There was also money set aside for a new dishwasher ($740,000), air conditioning upgrades ($750,000) and the replacement of a high voltage transformer ($400,000).
By far the biggest project in the region is the replacement hospital in Burns Lake, which carries a hefty $55 million price tag and is expected to be completed in 2015.
More than $1 million was pumped into the G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel in two projects: elevator replacement ($930,000) and medical air systems ($255,000). In Vanderhoof, $850,000 was earmarked for an electrical upgrade at St. John Hospital.
Other projects included the replacement of skylights and suite windows at the Alward Assisted Living Facility in Prince George ($570,000); a boiler replacement at the Mackenzie and District Hospital and Health Centre ($450,000) and two projects at Stuart Lake Hospital in Fort St. James (a new air handling unit and work on electrical panels and feeders) totaling $650,000.
Raper said there haven't been any major unexpected expenses in the first five months of the 2012-13 fiscal year and that Northern Health is on track for another balanced budget, but it's too early to project what type of surplus might be left over.