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The Southern District Health Board remains ahead of target for elective surgery despite the disruption caused by the resident doctor's strike, a report to be presented to board commissioners today says.
Elective surgeries are a much-needed source of income for the cash-strapped DHB, which has a deficit of $25million according to the most recent information released by the Ministry of Health.
In response to instructions to cut that deficit, the board prioritised elective surgery, and by March was well ahead of schedule.
However, the board commissioner's meeting that month was told the pending resident doctor's strike had the potential to wipe out that revenue through a combination of elective surgeries being postponed or cancelled.
A report to today's meeting said that despite the strike, the board was very close to meeting the target it had set itself, and would probably end up slightly ahead.
Specialist services director Patrick Ng said by the end of April the board had been about 440 caseweights ahead of schedule, but it lost about a fifth of those due to the strike.
All surgeries are assigned a caseweight, which reflects their complexity and the amount of time and resources they require.
The board has been boosting its elective performance by outsourcing procedures to Mercy Hospital in Dunedin and Southern Cross in Invercargill.
Mr Ng said Southland Hospital had ensured its lists were assigned to maximise caseweight delivery and a weekly outplacement list had been agreed with Southern Cross.
"Initial planning is under way to ensure that when we start the new financial year in July we can immediately achieve our planned outsourcing of circa 20 caseweights per week,'' Mr Ng said.
"This will ensure a smoother flow of outsourcing cases which provides more certainty for Mercy and we will be able to better control and monitor the outsourcing case load on a weekly basis.''
Staff were also looking at developing new theatre and post-operative areas in Dunedin Hospital, Mr Ng said.
In addition, commissioners would be asked to approve a new operating theatre at Southland Hospital.
"We will work this up as a standalone case as we believe we can clearly show a business case with a positive return on investment once avoided outsourcing/outplacement costs, additional perioperative staffing and additional recovery beds are taken into account.''
Mr Ng said while the strike had not harmed elective delivery, it had badly affected the board's target of seeing patients within four months of receiving a referral, and more than 700 appointments had been lost.
"This has set us back a little . . . nevertheless, good progress has been made in some of the key services we are seeking to recover, which are orthopaedics, urology, ENT and general surgery (Dunedin), and orthopaedics in Southland.''