WSU Veterinary College Teaching Hospital Addresses Deficit

PULLMAN, Wash. — The Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital is facing a projected budget deficit of $500,000 by July 1, and has undertaken strategic plans to address the shortfall.
As part of the budget cutting plan, much of the hospital’s weekday timeslip temporary help will start to be eliminated on Jan. 8.
In February, 3.6 full time equivalent (FTE) positions among classified staff, including one unfilled position, are also slated for elimination.
“Our planning has identified internal reallocation from various funds to provide an estimated $300,000 in relief,” said Professor Warwick Bayly, interim chair of the Veterinary Clinical Sciences (VCS) department. “Unfortunately timeslip help and classified staff cuts will also be necessary to make up part of the remaining $200,000.”
In a memo distributed to all VCS faculty and staff today, Bayly outlined the budget planning results as determined by an advisory committee made up of members from each service unit in the hospital. Bayly had previously met with hospital staff on Oct. 10, 1998, and outlined the budgetary problems.
All time-slip employment associated with normal hospital operations Monday through Friday will be discontinued on Jan 8. The Veterinary Teaching Hospital normally spends up to $250,000 annually for timeslip employees who perform a variety of support tasks in the facility. The current timeslip cuts will save a projected $85,000 to $100,000 over the next six months. The exact number of people affected by the cuts has not yet been determined. The college employs some 82 timeslip employees but many work all, or in part, on grant-funded budgets unaffected by the pullback.
“We are retaining our timeslip employees needed to maintain normal weekend service and after-hours emergency service,” said Bayly. “All areas will be impacted by this decision but we are open to retaining any timeslip position deemed necessary, providing there is a compelling case made.”
Another measure identified by the advisory committee was the elimination of 3.6 FTEs from classified staff. One of the positions, a veterinary technician position, is currently vacant and will not be filled. A full-time veterinary technician, a part-time radiology technician, and a full-time patient services representative will make up the rest of the classified staff cuts.
Classified staff cuts are projected to save the teaching hospital an estimated $55,000 by July 1. Fourteen staff positions from all budget sources have been added since WSU opened the new Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Sept. 1996.
“Teaching hospital staff have also been instructed not to work overtime unless directed to by an immediate supervisor,” said Bayly. “Everyone who works in Veterinary Clinical Sciences is being asked to reexamine their expenditures including faculty who will lose two veterinary internship positions next year.”
Teaching hospitals, because of their educational responsibilities, often operate with some ongoing debt. The WSU teaching hospital has seen actual revenues increasing nearly $500,000 per year but has a cumulative debt as of June 1998 of approximately $800,000. This was due in part to carryover from accounts receivable and the increased animal care inventory necessary to stock the new teaching hospital. Staffing increases and a near doubling of timeslip help have also contributed to the deficit as has the increased operating costs of the nearly 3 acres of space added to the college without a significant increase in the college’s state budget allocation.
“Essentially we are looking at any means to decrease our operating costs, increase our revenue coming in, and maintain the highest standards of care and teaching capabilities we can,” explained Interim Dean Terry McElwain. “It is important to note that this is an ongoing exercise that will continually be reexamined for its impact.
“Any time positions are eliminated and help is laid off it is traumatic,” he said. “But we are entrusted with spending the state’s resources wisely and stewarding our budgets for the benefit of the taxpayers. We are not unlike any other service enterprise and budget exercises including eliminating positions are a normal and not uncommon occurrence.”