Despite facing a significant financial shortfall this
year, Dunedin's private psychiatric hospital, Ashburn Clinic,
has good news about its future.
In a first for the country's oldest, and apart from iwi
services, only private psychiatric hospital, the Ministry of
Health is appointing a member to its board.
Business manager Lindsay Smith said the ministry had assured
Ashburn's financial viability by restoring bed numbers to 25.
A threat to drop to 20, along with other factors, sparked a
round of redundancies last year in which 9.7
full-time-equivalent staff lost their jobs.
Although it got a ministry "bailout" because of the potential
consequences of the cut, Ashburn had now been assured of the
extra five beds - worth $500,000 - for the foreseeable
future. "It's a recognition by the ministry even more of how
important we are.
I think the [district health boards] have been saying to
them, `For goodness' sake, you need to support Ashburn
because we rely on Ashburn' ... I think [the ministry] did
ring round to see whether we were worth looking after or not
and got an overwhelming vote that we had to stay."
In addition, private patient numbers had recovered,
increasing "quite dramatically" in the past two months,
suggesting the economy was improving, Mr Smith said.
Another factor last year had been the loss of ACC-funded
places for sexual abuse patients, but this contract was being
re-established and the relationship with the corporation had
The provider still faced a significant shortfall for 2010-11,
which would be funded from reserves, but was set to make a
small surplus in 2011-12.
New staff were being hired, although cuts to landscaping and
administration staff would remain.
"We're certainly climbing back up [in staff numbers], but I
suspect it will take a while before we get back to where we
The hospital was keen to retain some of the efficiencies
gained during its tough period last year. It was gradually
reopening mothballed facilities.
If Ashburn had a "weakness" it was that, despite being a
national hospital, it had a wholly local board. Although of
high calibre, with links to the Dunedin School of Medicine,
the board needed "someone buried into the national politics
of Wellington and the North Island".
Deputy medical director Dr Stephanie du Fresne said, while
Ashburn offered a mix of services and programmes, its
fixed-term addiction programme, established in 2009, was
gaining national importance as it filled a gap left when
Queen Mary Hospital in Hanmer Springs was closed.
"It's increasingly gaining credibility and that boosts our
Dr du Fresne said the clinic's medical director, Dr Brett
Ferguson, was in Auckland this week talking with four DHBs
about integrating Ashburn's clinical services with those of
the DHBs, to allow more patients to access Ashburn for part
of their treatment.
"It's an indication of the value people place on Ashburn that
they would like more people to have this treatment option,"
Dr du Fresne said.