A rise in the proportion of southern health patients
readmitted to hospital has prompted a warning it could be
linked to recent budget-driven bed cuts.
Crown monitor Jan White told Southern District Health Board
members at the hospital advisory committee in Dunedin this
week to carefully watch acute readmission rates, as an
increase could be an ''adverse outcome'' of closing beds over
The acute readmission rate refers to patients readmitted to
hospital within 28 days. It was 11.7% in December, when the
50-bed reduction took effect, a slight increase on the
previous month. The ''target'' for the measure is 9.2%.
Dr White rejected a claim from patient services director
Lexie O'Shea that because the raw number of readmissions was
the same as previously, against fewer admissions, it was not
linked to the cuts.
Dr White indicated it was the proportion that mattered, not
the raw number.
Dunedin Hospital has been running at high capacity, which is
unusual for this time of year. On Tuesday this week the
hospital was at 96% capacity, with about 30 discharges
pending, a spokeswoman said.
Contacted after the meeting, New Zealand Resident Doctors
Association national secretary Dr Deborah Powell expressed
concern about the acute readmission rate, which was a ''key
indicator'' of clinical performance. If patients were
discharged early, they were at increased risk of needing to
go back to hospital, she said.
Because of the cut in beds, doctors could feel pressured to
''get people out'' of wards when other patients needed to be
admitted, she said. Dr White, a former chief executive of
ACC, was appointed to the board last year by Health Minister
Tony Ryall to oversee its finances.