Quick, someone call Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
In a truly stranger than fiction episode, the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax reports it expects to lose $1.4 million this year on operations of its four Tim Hortons hospital locations.
You read that right: Lose money. On Timmys.
“One wonders, how do you lose money on a Tim Hortons? ” asks Premier Darrell Dexter, earning the nomination for Most Obvious Question of the Week. “But anything, I suppose, is possible.”
Especially when government gets involved.
But rest assured, taxpayers. In the next breath, and in a Lance Armstrong-esque whopper, the premier assures us that the loss won’t eat into the hospital’s budget for health care (which is news, by the way, to the hospital). Guess Dexter will tap that giant Government Snafu Fund, which is also worthy of entry in Ripley’s, as a documented bottomless pit.
The problem here is not that Nova Scotians are less patriotic than the rest of us, and therefore don’t see the ordering of a daily double-double at Timmys as part of their obligation to country and kin. Nope, the problem is that Nova Scotians have a hospital that is run by people with all the business sense of a fritter.
They pay their unionized hospital employees to work at their Timmys counters, for $20 an hour.
Now, we’re all in favour of a good wage. But when you sell items for a couple of bucks each, and when the skill level required amounts to having the ability to ask “Is that for here, or to go?” without forgetting your line, well, you can’t get silly with paycheques.
By comparison, registered nurses– the people whose required skill level includes being able to keep people alive – average about $29.50 per hour in the province.
If that makes sense to you, you must be on a sugar high from too many triple chocolate muffins. (And you may be missing the “deep-fried hypocrisy“ of selling fatty doughnuts next door to a surgical wing that is used all day to unclog arteries.)
You are also ignoring history. A hospital in St. John’s ran into similar difficulties with its Timmys earlier this year, and wisely decided to cut its losses by getting out of the food business and turning it over to private contractors, who now provide the grub, and absorb the financial risk. Suddenly, health care dollars are being spent on health care, not on subsidizing coffee and doughnuts for all. What a concept.
Let’s hope the Nova Scotia hospital can learn from this example, but don’t hold your breath. Its kneejerk reaction to the problem was – summoning all of its fritter brainpower — to ask to be let out of its obligation to provide food. Now that’s serving the needs of patients and their families.
Thinking like that may makes all of this just too unbelievable, even for Ripley’s.
Image credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young