Health inefficiency 'dumb'

Peter Barron
Peter Barron
Health workers travelling long distances in rural areas in separate cars to serve the same people is "just dumb", combined Otago and Southland District Health Boards committees were told this week.

Peter Barron said it had been pointed out at a Central Otago workshop on workforce development that there were instances of somebody driving from Queenstown to Ranfurly to deliver a service crossing paths with someone travelling the same route to deliver another service to the same person under a different contract.

He mentioned the example at the disability support and the community and public health advisory committee meetings in Invercargill this week.

There needed to be greater trust of services and flexibility in their contracts, which would allow for greater co-ordination.

Another committee member, Louise Carr, also mentioned the need for trust, along with the reporting detail required for some contracts, which included recording telephone text contact, something which was "on the point of ridiculous".

The committees, in a joint presentation on the three workshops held throughout the two regions, were told that a common issue identified was the length of board contracts, which could limit long-term planning by community services.

Regional general manager of human resources Karyn Penno said valid and comparable workforce data needed to be collected.

While many of the people at the workshops said recruitment was a problem, when pressed, they said it was not a problem for them "at the moment".

"It doesn't mean it isn't an issue, but we're working on anecdotal information."

A report on the workshops will be circulated to those who took part.

Committee member Branko Sijnja said staffing circumstances could change quickly and months-long efforts to recruit someone could suddenly fall over.

Extending the roles of nurses was something which could be helpful to rural practices.

Suggestions about how some issues might be dealt with could be circulated and participants could rate them as immediately achievable, achievable later, or "pie in the sky".

Setting up a website to make people aware of the training opportunities available, for instance, would be easy and inexpensive, but acting on other issues could take longer.

Community and public health advisory committee chairman Errol Millar suggested it could be helpful to bring together 10 to 12 people from the workshops to continue working on the issues.

Main points

Issues raised in regional health workforce workshops include

> Funding not recognising the differences between urban and rural areas.

> The rural lifestyle does not make up for pressures of practising in country areas, which include limited access to back-up and professional development and burnout.

> District Health Board staff receive higher pay than their community counterparts.

> High recruitment costs

> Difficulties with immigration

> A sense of disconnection

> Lack of service co-ordination

> An ageing workforce with no sector wide workforce planning

> High turnover of health support workers

> Over-reliance on volunteers, who are a diminishing resource


Add a Comment