Health board budget targets savings

The Southern District Health Board now has an agreed 2012-13 budget which contains ''waste reduction and savings initiatives'', a report to the board says.

Until the board meeting in Dunedin on Thursday, end-of-year projections had been blank in budget papers since the start of the financial year.

Now, a deficit of $11 million is cited.

It has taken longer than usual this year for the deficit-ridden board's annual plan - which includes the end-of-year projections - to be signed off by Health Minister Tony Ryall.

In his report, finance and funding executive director Robert Mackway-Jones said although the annual budget had been agreed with the National Health Board, it awaited Mr Ryall's formal sign-off.

At the meeting, chairman Joe Butterfield received an assurance from Mr Mackway-Jones that the board would not overspend again this year, as it had last year.

Chief executive Carole Heatly added: ''It's going to be really tough, but we always knew that.''

Mr Ryall's office said it was yet to receive the annual plan, but confirmed Crown monitor Stuart McLauchlan's tenure continued into the new year.

When contacted, Mr McLauchlan, who was not at Thursday's meeting, said the board's savings initiatives would not deliver instant results. His role was to be the ''ears for the minister'' at the board table, he said.

At the board's community and public health committee in Dunedin on Wednesday, members received a staff presentation about plans to limit hospital referrals. Known as Southern Pathways, it would be launched next year, with strong input from GPs, including a GP as clinical leader.

Under the new system, GPs would would be able to order diagnostic procedures to limit specialist referrals.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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