A health professional is questioning the wisdom of the
Southern District Health Board cutting bed numbers last year,
as Southland Hospital and Dunedin Hospital near capacity.
In November, the board dropped 50 beds across its services
for the summer months, in a bid to trim $15.6 million from
health services to meet a $9 million deficit.
However, hospitals throughout Otago and Southland are now
almost at capacity and some patients are being shuffled
around wards as staff deal with a seasonal increase in
Southland Hospital, in Invercargill, reported earlier this
week it was at 93% capacity, and Dunedin Hospital's occupancy
was ''in the early 90s''.
Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive
director Ian Powell said the board's decision to cut 50 beds
''The capacity issue confronting the Southern District Health
Board highlights the folly of the earlier decision to cut bed
numbers, which was done purely and simply for financial
New Zealand Public Service Association national secretary
Richard Wagstaff said he was not surprised the southern
region's hospitals were running so close to capacity.
''It's predictable that this is happening.
''Funding is short across the country. Administrators are
struggling to make ends meet.
''It underscores that despite the headlines and policies, the
district health boards are very focused on their budgets,''
New Zealand Nurses Organisation professional nursing adviser
Lorraine Ritchie defended the board's decision, saying it was
normal for public hospitals to cut bed numbers during the
summer period, because it was a time when hospitals were
generally quieter. She said nursing staff had not reported
any concerns about the situation.
''Patient numbers can move up and down really quickly. Staff
are flexible and are moved around accordingly.
''The decision is a normal business decision. As long as it
doesn't impact on patient or staff safety, we don't have
concerns about it.''
However, she said if the board did not reinstate the beds in
a couple of months, NZNO would have to review its thoughts on
Southern District Health Board nursing and midwifery
executive director Leanne Samuel said bed capacity in
Southern DHB hospitals was constantly changing, with Dunedin
Hospital at 88.4% occupancy yesterday at 1.30pm and Southland
Hospital at 83.6% occupancy.
''We have dealt with some seasonal peaks, but these have all
''We continue to work with the primary sector to ensure that
patients are being treated in the right place and at the