Spending doubles in two years

Carole Heatly
Carole Heatly
The Southern District Health Board has more than doubled its spending on communications and public relations in the past two years.

The board spent $348,663 last year, compared with $156,449 in 2011, figures released yesterday under the Official Information Act show. Chief executive Carole Heatly said the extra money had improved the quality of the board's communication activities. The board was now speaking consistently and clearly to the public and its staff. Those efforts had been bearing fruit, Ms Heatly said, with public health indicators such as vaccinations in the increase, and much greater engagement with staff.

The board will claw back more than $13,000 of last year's spending from a contract it picked up for South Island Alliance health communications, for which invoicing began in November, the released data indicates.

The figures include wages. Before hiring Steve Addison as executive director of communications in late 2011, the board had a single communications officer covering Otago and Southland. Now, Mr Addison manages a team of two, which will soon increase to four.

Steve Addison
Steve Addison
The board plans to hire another staff member in Dunedin, and a part-time worker in the Central Otago/Lakes district, to join communications staff in Invercargill and Dunedin.

The Invercargill staff member now focused mainly on South Island work.

Yesterday, Mr Addison was hosting an Australian health communications executive, here to learn about what the board has been doing.

Andrew Williamson is public affairs and communication executive director for Melbourne's Southern Health, which covers a population of more than a million people, and has 13,500 staff.

With six major hospitals, it is Victoria's largest health service.

Mr Williamson was keen to learn more about how the board related to staff, patients, and the public.

Andrew Williamson
Andrew Williamson
Mr Addison said he was also learning from the visit, as Mr Williamson's organisation had more shared publicity with its aligned university than the board had with the University of Otago.

Mr Addison said he mostly had a ''blank canvas'' for communications when he started, which was unusual.

- eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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