The Southern District Health Board has called
in more outside help to resolve issues at Dunedin Hospital,
seconding a National Health Board service manager to improve
The move is likely a response to the board recently stating
it could no longer sustain the level of outsourcing of
surgery from Dunedin Hospital to the private sector, which
contributed to a cost blow-out in 2011-12 forming part of a
$13.2 million deficit.
The inadequacy of Dunedin Hospital's surgery service was
identified as a major weakness in a National Health Board
(NHB) systems review last year.
However, Joy Farley, who will continue as service manager for
the South Island neurosurgery service during her year-long
secondment, insisted yesterday, when contacted, her role was
still in the "scoping" stage.
Respected for her work running the fledgling South Island
neurosurgical service, Ms Farley is seen as capable of
working well with clinicians.
Her appointment was welcomed by the head of the senior
doctors' union, Ian Powell, who said she possessed people
skills lacked by board management.
Ms Farley was approached for the secondment by board chief
executive Carole Heatly.
It involved about three days a week in Dunedin.
Based in Wellington, Ms Farley already travels to Dunedin on
a regular basis, and said her neurosurgery role fitted well
with her new role, which she began last week.
While nominally focused on Otago and Southland, Ms Farley
acknowledged the main issue was Dunedin Hospital.
The age and condition of its theatres made them inadequate
for modern surgery, she said.
Asked what she could do about long-standing infrastructural
problems, she said that she was taking a "high-level view",
but she wanted to work with clinicians to improve services.
The NHB report said the age, size and condition of the
hospital's main theatre block created unacceptable delays for
patients, and frustrations for surgeons.
"Given the significant weaknesses of the facility, processes
and infrastructure in the theatres, it is surprising the
clinical staff manage so well," the report said.
Since then, the board has approved a proposal to establish a
ninth operating theatre, which is set to open next March. A
proposal to run night lists of acute surgery was shelved
earlier this year because of problems recruiting staff.
Mr Powell, executive director of the Association of Salaried
Medical Specialists, said Ms Farley's appointment was good
news for the hospital's doctors.
"One of her strengths is relationships - and that is one of
the weaknesses of the DHB at the moment."
She had "natural empathy" with senior doctors, who
appreciated her "intuitively collaborative" style.
He hoped her role was broader than surgical services.
Ms Heatly, responding by email, said Ms Farley would report
directly to her in a role that was mostly strategic, but also
involved oversight of some areas of service delivery.
The NHB would pay her salary.
Ms Heatly said Ms Farley had not been brought in as a
mediator, saying relationships with clinicians had improved
In an email to staff members obtained by the Otago Daily
Times, Ms Heatly said Ms Farley would contact clinicians to
explain her role, and begin understanding some of the issues
from the front line.
In recent months, the board has called in external help for
its finance department, after incorrect financial
forecasting, and Dunedin Hospital's emergency department, to
resolve relationship problems with doctors.