Listen to us, not media: SDHB

Chris Fleming says deteriorating facilities are a big challenge, but also an opportunity to find...
Chris Fleming says deteriorating facilities are a big challenge, but also an opportunity to find ways to improve. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Health staff are being urged to look past ''formal media'' and get news about the organisation from official Southern District Health Board channels.

Chief executive Chris Fleming wrote a lengthy email to staff yesterday giving his take on the board's problems, including criticism of recent media coverage.

''One, unfortunately, could be forgiven ... for believing that things are all negative if reading the formal media.

''I encourage you to take time to go to the Southern DHB Facebook page, read the Southern Future e-newsletter and the Better Health supplements in community newspapers - and simply look around at all your colleagues around you ...''

In the email - released by the board to the Otago Daily Times - he invited staff to discuss concerns directly with commissioner Kathy Grant and senior managers at a ''drop-in session'' at Dunedin Hospital on Friday.

The problems aired in recent weeks were not new, and would take time to fix. They could seem ''insurmountable'', but he was hopeful and optimistic.

''With 4500 of us pulling in a common direction, I genuinely believe we are capable of great things.

''It is easy to be despondent when confronted with ongoing negative media, especially when we wish we could do more for those we serve.''

The DHB received regular praise from patients and the community, he said.

The email reveals experienced North Island health executive Joy Farley has been brought back into the organisation as acting specialist services director.

The board was working to increase operating theatre access ''on multiple fronts'' and was in talks with Mercy Hospital. The private hospital is expanding its operating theatre space.

''We may be able to make greater use of the capacity they will gain as a result of the redevelopments under way at that facility.

''We also need to ensure we are maximising the throughput that is possible within our existing space, and I am mindful of [consultant] Sapere's report that has compared our productivity with other DHBs and suggested we have opportunities to improve.''

Mr Fleming said media reports that surgeons had at times been employed but then not given adequate theatre time were accurate.

''This goes back over many years and I am at a loss to understand how this practice has been allowed to occur.''

Of the struggling urology service, the upcoming review report would make for uncomfortable reading, he said.

Media reports about cardiac surgery delays gave an ''inaccurate impression'', although he admitted there was a problem.

''There is no evidence to support the suggestion that patients are dying because their cardiac surgery is delayed by constraint in ICU beds.''

He said the new medical assessment unit, which is to take pressure off the emergency department, would open next month, a few weeks later than expected, because of staff recruitment problems.

News about the rebuild of Dunedin Hospital expected in the next few weeks would provide more certainty.

When more was known about the big build, interim plans could be drawn up to get the hospital through the next few years.

This will include the potential need to relocate some staff and ... ''evolve the use of our Wakari campus as adding infrastructure on the Dunedin Hospital site is likely to be very problematic and as such we will have to be very strategic in our decisions.''


It seems Mr Fleming and the commissioners just don't get it. Sure, every day some people are treated, operated on and pass through the SDHB facilities. Terrific. For a bunch of people SDHB actually do their job and treat those people.
The public generally don't expect perfection. But they do expect treatment to a good standard in a reasonable time. For too many people and some specialties the SDHB are simply below any reasonable standards. SDHB & government cannot be allowed to spin their way out of this.

Well, I'll just stick to reading the 'Lovin' Southern' insert in the Star from now on. Jeesh, these people running the health service are shy of journos asking questions aren't they?

Instead of focusing on the media and the message, why not get on and try and fix the problems? Usual misplaced emphasis on an element of the situation that is least important.

I blame the media, especially "Mrs Media" Eileen Byline.

If it weren't for her, this would not be in "The Daily Troublemaker".