$200m cost for digital hospital plan

Short-term funding will be needed to keep the Southern District Health Board’s almost $200million digital programme on track.

The project, which would upgrade existing technology in the region’s hospitals and also pave the way for the rebuilt Dunedin Hospital to be a digital hospital was progressing well, SDHB chief executive told a board meeting this week.

Last month, at the board’s request, Treasury had facilitated a review clinic in Wellington, where government agencies and departments had examined an early draft of the programme.

"They scrutinised it closely and were very positive about it, and that it had considered digital initiatives from a broader perspective," Mr Fleming said.

However, there were also what he termed constructive criticisms of faults in the draft, and Mr Fleming said there was an obvious desire that the project be a success.

Following the feedback, a section would be added to explain the digital programme as part of the broader changes being enacted by the board, a clearer explanation of intended structures and targets, and a firmer timeline.

Mr Fleming said several critical stages of the project, which included hiring staff, finding office space and starting design work, were due to begin just after Christmas.

However, there was a gap between when project staff were ready to get under way and when funding for the work would be available under normal processes.

Mr Fleming said it was hoped that half of the estimated $15million for the next 18 months would come from the SDHB, funded through internal cash flows, and the other half, which was related to new hospital infrastructure, would be funded through the Ministry of Health.

Board member Lyndell Kelly, a clinician, said there had been issues in the transition to digital systems, including copies of letters no longer being stored in paper files in active use.

"There is a lot of work to be done before this move occurs in some parts of the DHB."

Chief medical officer Nigel Millar said the project was far-reaching, and would require all clinicians to ask whether any piece of paper they were holding was essential any more.

"Just that in itself is a big change management project."

It was also essential that southern operated the same systems as other DHBs which it shared services with, such as neurosurgery, he said.

The board accepted a report on the strategy and noted its progress so far.

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