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A number of people have asked me why UHN currently has a hiring "freeze" and how we are going to cope if we do not hire anyone in such a large organization. I want to use this message to explain why we are strictly limiting external hires at present, how this hiring freeze works and why it is so necessary to substantially reduce external hires in order to maintain our commitments to staff and patients.
First of all it is important to recognize that if we continue with our current costs of operations, our costs will increase by more than our Ministry revenues in 2009/10. This means that we need to reduce our operating expenses in this current year. You will remember that we have made three commitments to our staff, patients and Board of Trustees in making a plan to meet this budget target. Even though I have mentioned these three commitments many times in the past, I will repeat myself now because these commitments are important to understand in the context of our hiring freeze.
First we have promised our Board that we will not run a deficit. The Board knows that one of UHN's strengths is our prudent financial approach and this requires that we balance our budget each and every year. This financial responsibility is also part of the reason why our revenues have increased over the past five years- the government and Ministry of Health know that they can depend on us to avoid budget deficits and spend tax payers' money responsibly.
Our second commitment is that we will maintain our budgeted volumes of patient care. Our patients rely on UHN as one of the largest care providers in Ontario to ensure we provide the same amount and acuity of care year to year.
Our third commitment is that we will not have involuntary job loss at UHN. Over the past three years we have increased our staffing by more than 10% - both in our clinical units and in our clinical support areas. To reduce our costs of operations, we now need to reduce staffing while staying away from layoffs.
Every year, about 140 people leave our hospital- to retire, to move elsewhere, or to pursue new careers. We will use these voluntary departures from our hospital to reduce the numbers of UHN staff. In order to achieve a reduction in staff, we need to maintain a strict hiring freeze to reduce our staff as these colleagues leave.
There are some people who we will need to replace immediately if they leave us…. especially in our clinical areas or in areas where we need special expertise. However even we will post these vacancies internally before searching externally.
There are three checks that we are asking our managers and directors to follow when a staff member leaves UHN: 1) determine whether we can maintain this vacancy and do without or share the work being done by the departed staff member; 2) if we want to hire to the vacancy, then the manager will post the position internally; 3) if we cannot find a replacement internally, then the manager will request an external posting. External postings will require sign-off by a member of UHN Executive. We are reviewing these requests for external hires very carefully and asking managers to go without external recruits as much as possible.
We should mention that the hiring freeze does not apply to areas where we have external funding for new positions. External funding mainly applies to research where we can achieve external grant funding and for some positions in SIMS which are funded by external contracts.
Over the past three years we have increased the number of people who work at UHN by more than 600 people. We are going to partially reduce those numbers through this hiring freeze. This will mean that our executives, directors and managers will be carefully reviewing all of the work done at UHN- to figure out what work can be delayed, done differently or even eliminated. In some cases, staff may be asked to re-design their work to make up for a departure that is not filled. Although re-designing work is sometimes challenging, I hear from our staff that their most important concern is job security and we will make sure with this hiring freeze that we stay away from the need for layoffs.