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Financial losses rolled up by Tim Hortons operations inside Windsor Regional Hospital’s two locations have amounted to roughly $1.8 million since 2010, according to findings of a national watchdog group.
The findings of SecondStreet.org were the result of a recent freedom of information request which was shared with the Windsor Star.
The group a few years ago was triggered to investigate the finances of cafeterias inside hospitals across Canada by an original 2012 Star story that gained a lot of attention on how the hospital’s cafeteria in Windsor racked up a loss of $265,000 for that year.
The group has found a mixed bag of profits and losses of food and beverage operations inside hospitals across Canada, but Windsor Regional stands out as being especially problematic because the financial losses of its Tim Hortons operations have gone on for so long.
“It’s really disappointing when you think about how these dollars could have helped patients instead of providing the public with double-doubles and donuts,” said Colin Craig, president of SecondStreet.
“In terms of their overall budget, it is not a lot of money, but it adds up like a dripping water from a tap. Now it is close to $2 million. That is money that could have helped patients with added surgeries or medical equipment. You have people stuck on waiting lists, while the hospital is losing money selling coffee and donuts.”
Administrators at Windsor Regional countered having Tim Hortons products available in its two hospital facilities has been a clearly stated preference.
“We have had the same coffee service for over two decades available for visitors, patients and staff,” said hospital CEO David Musyj.
“Visitors, patients and staff have made it clear they prefer the Tim Hortons product as compared to other coffees. At the same time, we need to do our best to have staff remain in the building even on their breaks in case of an emergency.”
Hospital financial records on its Tim Hortons operations provided to SecondStreet details how annual losses were especially great at the Met Campus during the fiscal years between 2010 and 2013, reaching as $423,000 in 2010-2011. Annual losses otherwise at Met campus ranged between $50,000 and $100,000.
Tim Hortons operations at the Ouellette Campus had been performing better, even returning a small profit in some years — until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The coffee-based kiosk at that campus lost $105,000 in 2020-2021 and $205,000 in 2021-2022. Loses were also heavy at the Met Campus for 2021-2022 at $193,000.
“The losses (during the past couple years) relate to the impact of COVID-19 in trying to provide a service for staff, patients and visitors while at the same time dealing with closures caused by the pandemic and a result of lower sales,” Musyj said. “We tried to adjust staffing during the pandemic to reflect these lower sales.”
A study of the financial record indicates wages and benefits are part of the reason for losses incurred at the hospital’s coffee kiosks with annual compensation expenses listed over $500,000 for each operation.
Each kiosk is operated by Windsor Regional Hospital staff, Musyj confirmed.
That leaves Craig and SecondStreet to question why the hospital does not have the service handed out to the private sector to operate.
“At many hospital locations food service is rented out to the private sector,” Craig said. “Obviously, that’s not the case in Windsor. I suspect these losses are due to generous compensation. This is public money. Let the private sector run it. Certainly, they will not be running it with these kind of losses.
“It’s baffling to me how many years they let this go on. At some point, you have to reach a breaking point where you say ‘enough is enough.’ Now you have reached a loss of nearly $2 million. This is money that could have been used for more knee surgeries, hire more staff. Why do you insist on losing money selling double-doubles and donuts?”
But Musyj explained there is not really an option to contract out the hospital’s coffee-based kiosk operations.
“Pursuant to the terms of the collective agreement we cannot contract out the service to the private sector if it will cause a lay off of bargaining unit staff,” he said. “Years ago, we were able to contract out the main cafeteria services to the private sector on the agreement with the union that the Tim Hortons operation would remain under the collective agreement.
“We continually work on trying balance providing this service and minimizing any losses and some years have made a small profit.”