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Dianne Doyle, president and CEO, Providence Health Care

Generating revenues isn’t the focus of what Providence Health Care does; in fact, unlike most businesses, the more work it does, the less likely it is to be profitable. With the cost of providing health care rising, Providence is more likely to be found discussing ways to better manage the $547.9 million in revenues it garners from government funding and other sources than how to boost business volumes. “It’s a continual challenge for all of us in health care to use that money in the most efficient way and keep up with the increase in demands because of population growth and aging and changing technology and inflationary costs for supplies and drugs,” says Dianne Doyle, Providence’s president and CEO.

Providence, the largest Roman Catholic health care provider in Canada, saw its revenues rise just 2.3 per cent last year from 2006, about even with the rate of inflation. Meanwhile higher costs sent its net loss skyrocketing to $11.4 million last year from a mere $27,000 in 2006. The provider’s tight financial situation demands accountability for spending, which is allocated in keeping with the six core values of the organization: spirituality, integrity, stewardship, trust, excellence and respect. While past efforts have focused on streamlining the emergency department to improve the flow of patients and productivity of staff, and significant steps have been taken to reduce absenteeism (now at 4.4 per cent), the most ambitious cost-saving measure lies ahead: the relocation to the False Creek Flats of St. Paul’s Hospital, one of five health care facilities in the Providence family.

The move could trim up to 15 per cent annually from the hospital’s operating budget while improving cost effectiveness by approximately 36 per cent. A timeline for the move hasn’t been approved, as it officially remains under discussion, but it’s the favoured plan. Rebuilding on Station Street, says Doyle, would not only improve the hospital’s operations, it could eliminate the frustrations of working in an antiquated structure and thereby boost staff morale. “If you can reduce the frustrations, you enhance the probability of lowering your absenteeism,” she says. “Any reduction, or any efficiency that we can make in our staff costs, is a saving of dollars that you can then roll back into the provision of more services.”

Doyle’s vision for Providence has roots in early-’70s Victoria, where she began her health-care career as a front-line nurse in the intensive care unit of Royal Jubilee Hospital. She soon moved to Vancouver, joining St. Paul’s and eventually working in three of the five institutions that are part of the Providence family. She was appointed president and CEO of Providence in September 2006. “I am one of these individuals who was born knowing they were going to be in health care. I can’t remember any point in my life when I didn’t know that I was somehow going to be in health care,” she says, though she admits that administration wasn’t her goal.

Still, it’s been rewarding, and it’s where she feels she can make the most difference. “I found in administration there is no end to the opportunities and challenges of trying to bring change to the health care system,” she says.