The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has learned that hospitals in Saskatoon have lost $1.2 million over the past two years in their food services department.
"I don't think the average taxpayer has a problem subsidizing things like open heart surgery and medical procedures, but I think a lot of people would question why they are subsidizing the burger and fries down in the cafeteria," said Colin Craig, with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF). CTF released freedom of information documents obtained from the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) yesterday.
The group did not get data for the rest of the hospitals in the region or hospitals in Regina, but Craig speculated that this could be a trend province wide.
"Quite often hospitals have very high wage and benefit costs so it's uneconomical for them to try and run restaurants and cafeterias," he said.
A Saskatoon Health Region official said they recognize that it is a problem and they are working towards a solution.
"Our game though, over the next year and a half, is to get the food services that we operate to break even or a profitable position," said Nilesh Kavia, vice president of finance and corporate services with SHR.
The region will look at several areas to cut down on costs.
"Traditionally, hospital cafeterias are open longer hours than restaurants ... just because we have patients and families and staff that work into the late hours that need food options," Kavia said.
But Kavia said that they will make sure they are not over-staffed during hours when it's less busy. The region will also examine raw food costs and buy more in bulk.
Raising prices of the meals served in the cafeteria will not be a priority.
"A lot of our patients and families are there needing a place to eat, so we try to make that reasonably affordable," Kavia said.
CTF said it will ask the provincial government to look at ways for hospitals to partner with the private sector.
"Maybe they could even charge a private restaurant rent. The restaurant could come in and sell food products to customers," Craig said.
But SHR said it is not as simple as it seems because of labour agreements in place.