Catch-up may have backfired

Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
The Southern District Health Board’s hard work to catch up on surgery postponed because of the Covid-19 lockdown may have backfired, as the organisation is still waiting to be told it will be paid for that work.

Without confirmation the Ministry of Health will pay for those operations, the SHDB might need to scale back how many surgeries it carried out to meet financial targets, chief executive Chris Fleming said in a report to the board.

"Other DHBs have delayed their recovery awaiting confirmation of funding, but we do not believe patients should have to wait simply while funding arrangements were sourced as this simply delayed patients further than necessary," Mr Fleming said.

"If we do not receive confirmation of this funding prior to the final audited results being produced, we will need to deteriorate our performance to not impact 2020-21."

The SDHB quickly put a surgical recovery plan in place after the Covid-19 lockdown lifted.

The ministry had asked all DHBs to attempt to deliver up to 85% of planned surgery in June.

The SDHB, which postponed about 1200 operations during lockdown, not only achieved 100% of target, but also performed an extra 200 operations above target through initiatives such as running weekend clinics.

"This came at an outsourced cost of approximately $1.2 million," Mr Fleming said.

"We have assumed that the volume in excess of our plan for the month will be able to be recovered from additional planned care revenue."

However that has not been confirmed, leaving the SDHB’s already parlous finances further stretched — and meaning a question mark remained over whether it should continue to try to clear the backlog of procedures.

But Mr Fleming stood by the SDHB’s "assertive approach" to get as many people’s operations performed as quickly as possible.

"This was great from the perspective of delivering more surgery to our population and recovering quickly and is a credit to the hard work of all who are involved in perioperative surgery.

"In the background we now need to ensure that the additional activity is recognised as part of recovery efforts and funded accordingly."

Papers to be presented to the board meeting tomorrow said the SDHB’s year end net result was a $49 million deficit; it had budgeted on a deficit of $38.5 million.

The board has now sent the second draft of its annual plan to the ministry for approval, and been granted an extension until August 15 to lodge its statement of performance expectations.



Just the response a health organisation needed to make - a person's health waits for no-one, just like Covid. Congratulations SDHB, not only should the Ministry of Health be upfront with all this payment, they also should have got on with it and outlined to the health boards the expectations to put health of New Zealanders first. Ministry of Health performance has been subpar with this provisioning signalling and during the whole Covid period showing themselves more to be boffins rather than leaders and directors of NZ health.

As one of the recipients of very recent surgery at Dunedin Hospital, I can only say how much it is appreciated to have received such efficient and quick help for a longstanding health condition. I was seen by a surgeon before lockdown, had a phone consultation during, and my surgery date was much sooner than I was promised, which was a real bonus. It was clear that the surgery dept was in high-efficiency mode and what a difference this makes to people's lives. Good on the SDHB and I hope the Govt comes to the party. In the end, it saves money (and suffering) to get people well or to improve their health asap.

Caught up? I'm still waiting for surgery that was supposed to be done within four months from January. And all the while the problem gets worse, and the surgery required to fix it gets more difficult, riskier and more expensive. It really peeves me to see the SBHD claiming they're all caught up when this is clearly not the case.

The SDHB hasn't said that they have fully caught up with the surgeries. They said that they put in a lot of work to catch up with the delayed surgeries. Their statement doesn't say that they have actually caught up, although I can see why you have read it that way.

Money not available for health, meanwhile ACT's Seymour, who should know better, scare-posts on Twitter about the country's debt for Covid-19. Could the ODT with its research expertise please find out when a country ever bailed out of a war because it couldn't afford it, and what country or countries did this?
For heaven's sake, we even had the money to afford a flag referendum. At the same time as people were on long waiting lists, or not-really waiting lists, referred back to management by GP to keep the waiting lists looking less bad! There is money for what politicians want to do, not always for what NZers need.



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