Health service caution

The biggest challenge in developing clinical services across Otago and Southland is getting the "non-clinical stuff" right, Southern District Health Board chief medical officer (Otago) Richard Bunton says.

He was responding to questions at this week's hospitals' advisory committee meeting about the pace of developing regional clinical services within the recently-merged board.

Mr Bunton said it was important to get the management and financial structures right for services which, in some cases, might be involved on three or four sites.

Among the issues which had to be addressed in moves to regional services was equity of access where, in some cases, the two areas provided different levels of service.

A positive thing about the process was the amount of "goodwill and genuine desire to do this" on both of the major sites, "almost without exception".

Chief operating officer (Otago) Vivian Blake said senior medical teams in Dunedin and Invercargill had done a lot of ground work on regionalisation.

It was important to have a good level of detail about services before proceeding with regionalisation, and a well-managed formal process was needed.

The beginning was going to be slow.

Each of the two major hospitals would have a programme manager to facilitate the process and these managers would probably have two or three regional projects to deal with at any time.

As part of the work, the board would be looking at services which were already regional, such as the Southern Blood and Cancer Service, to ensure all relevant issues had been addressed.

Committee member Dr Malcolm Macpherson said it should not be a surprise to anyone that it would be more difficult "than it seems on paper" in an organisation as complicated as the board.

Member Susie Johnstone said the biggest thing for the board was to identify how this work could be done most effectively and within a reasonable time.

At this stage, rheumatology and gastroenterology have begun work towards regionalisation.

Mrs Blake said urology, endocrinology, ear nose and throat services, and the older person's health service had also indicated they were interested .


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