The Southern District Health Board has been the focus
of close attention this week, with concerns expressed across
the health sector about the population-based funding model,
staffing levels, ageing infrastructure at Dunedin Hospital, the
recent IT outage, and proposed cuts to mental health beds. The
Star chief reporter Brenda Harwood examines the issues.
Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Associate Prof David
Gwynne-Jones is concerned a ''tsunami'' of knee replacement
surgery is approaching. Photo by Brenda Harwood.
A population-based funding model has been blamed for ongoing
health funding woes, as debate rages over staffing levels,
cuts to mental health beds and ageing Dunedin Hospital
The issues were highlighted in two meetings late last week -
a stop-work meeting attended by 300 nurses, and a public
meeting called by local Labour MPs, which involved Labour
health spokeswoman Annette King and a panel of health
consumer advocates and health professionals.
Speaking at the meeting, and in an interview with The Star,
orthopaedic surgeon Associate Prof David Gwynne-Jones said it
was generally accepted that Dunedin Hospital's theatre block
was ''past its use-by date'' and needed replacing. Dunedin
was the last major hospital in New Zealand not to have a
significant upgrade of facilities.
While the operating theatres were ''perfectly safe'', reports
of leaks in the roof of the theatre block were symptomatic of
the lack of investment.
The situation of nursing graduates struggling to find work
was a ''perverse outcome of a system under stress'', he said.
At Friday's meeting, Prof Gwynne-Jones and oncologist Dr
Chris Jackson highlighted the growing demand on cancer and
Mental health and aged care advocate Max Reid, a former chief
executive of Hospice Southland, highlighted the ''failure''
of the population-based funding model in the south.
Yesterday, Mr Reid said the decision by the Southern DHB to
scale back proposed cuts to Wakari Hospital mental health
beds, from the original proposal to cut 12 beds down to 8,
However, he remained concerned the ''ring fence'' around
mental health funding had been removed.
Health board chief executive Carole Heatley dismissed
Friday's meeting as a ''political campaign in an election
year'' and said the board provided quality health and
disability services to the southern community.
It was important to understand that the Southern DHB was
funded in the same way as the rest of New Zealand, but that
the region did not have a growing population.
Dunedin North MP and associate Labour health spokesman David
Clark said there was ''plenty to follow up on'' from the
meeting. It was clear the population-based funding formula
was producing inequities.
''I have deep respect and concern for the staff who are doing
a thoroughly professional job and are only speaking out
reluctantly out of concern for patient care,'' he said.
Health Minister Tony Ryall said the Southern DHB's budget was
$800 million this year and had increased by $107 million in
the past five years, not including capital spending.
The population-based funding formula was regularly reviewed,
with a review now in its early stages.
The nursing situation in New Zealand was part of an
international trend, although there were more than 3000 extra
nurses working in public hospitals.
''I am sure more graduate nurses will find jobs in the next
few months, including in aged care, GP clinics and private
hospitals,'' Mr Ryall said.