Elective outsourcing stopped to save money

The Southern District Health Board is saving money by not outsourcing elective surgery to the private sector, a report to tomorrow's board meeting shows.

After an outsourcing blow-out in the past financial year, the board has stopped contracting Dunedin's Mercy Hospital for elective work.

While still in deficit this financial year ($3.7 million), the board posted a $400,000 surplus for September, finance and funding executive director Robert Mackway-Jones' report said. This was partly because of a financial "buffer" from not outsourcing elective surgery.

However, the board is falling behind elective surgery targets. In September, elective surgery was 10% less than planned. So far this year, it was 3% less than planned.

Acute surgery, which the board blames for hindering its elective work, was 11% more than expected this year.

Last week, the Otago Daily Times reported patients waiting for skin-cancer surgery at Dunedin Hospital increased 64% in the year to the end of September. Also, numbers of patients shunted back to their GP for "active review" for all ear, nose, and throat ailments were up 58%.

Committee members at today's hospital advisory committee will hear the board has established extra "see and treat" clinics for skin lesion patients to address the situation.

Treating about 27 extra patients a month, the initiative should reduce the skin lesion waiting list, a report to the committee said. The clinics started two to three weeks ago.

Skin lesions are dealt with by the ear, nose, and throat department.

Chairman Joe Butterfield has spoken sternly at recent board meetings about the need to clamp down on outsourcing elective surgery, because of the board's financial position.


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