Fertility service change confirmed

A decision announced yesterday to outsource the Otago Fertility Service (OFS) is a sign of the financial pressure on health boards, the head of the senior doctors' union says.

The Southern District Health Board said the service was too vulnerable to stay in-house.

It would work with other South Island health boards on a joint outsourcing tender and a new service would hopefully be in place by the middle of next year.

The board's decision document revealed the OFS had a ''significant'' shortfall each year, and there were workforce, compliance, and regulatory pressures.

Staff were told the decision yesterday and offered counselling, but were told it was too soon to know the impact on their jobs.

Board members approved the outsourcing earlier this month on the proviso services such as IVF would have to be provided locally.

The service carries out 120 publicly-funded IVF cycles each year, and another 25-30 privately-funded cycles.

''On balance, the directorate leadership team believes the small size of the service makes it increasingly difficult to provide a clinically sustainable and financially viable service,'' the decision said.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said the consultation process was a farce, with a predetermined outcome of privatisation.

Staff disputed some of the board's assertions about the vulnerability of the service, and essentially the board had told them the ''mandarins'' knew better.

''They dragged out the process just to cover their backs and ensure they couldn't be litigated against,'' he said.

''The financial pressures that district health boards are under are testing their ability to maintain robust decision-making, and some are falling short. This is an example of falling short.''

Southern DHB was prone to short-term decision-making, and outsourcing services to solve problems, rather than resolving the problems, Mr Powell said.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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