SDHB to push ahead with plans

Ambitious plans by the Southern District Health Board to remodel how people interact with the health system are being pushed ahead, despite concerns how the cash-strapped organisation will fund them.

Based on a "hub and spoke" model, the proposals envisage a future in which people are more likely to receive healthcare at home than in hospitals, and where people use smart technology to access diagnosis and treatment services remotely.

Similar systems operate elsewhere, but specific plans for the SDHB’s area needed to take into account factors such as its size  and the higher proportion of rural and elderly people in the population, the DHB’s newly released action plan said.

The documents have been redrafted since a consultation period last year.

GPs, particularly in the regions, expressed concern at the time that the hub model was aspirational and wondered whether it was achievable - especially as no detailed costings were provided.

The price of the action plan remained a concern, the SDHB conceded.

"Our ability to implement the actions underpinning this action plan will depend on whether we are bold enough and prepared to make tough prioritisation decisions," it said.

At $21.8million, the SDHB’s deficit is sizeable, but its most recent financial performances have been on budget or better than projected.

The plan notes the DHB is unlikely to receive a significant increase in funding, that it was still working towards break-even and that it needed to do better with existing resources.

"As a consequence there will be an early review of funding levels and contracting within the system to test their alignment with the primary and community care strategy and action plan."

Muddying the waters still further are the ongoing maintenance issues at Dunedin Hospital and the impending rebuild of the facility.

SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming suggested last month  a $100 million rescue package would be needed to keep the current hospital patched up until the new hospital - which the Government has pledged to build - was up and running.

"The rebuild is a generational opportunity to redistribute investment across the system and do things differently in primary and community care - delivering a broad range of services through approaches and settings that are effective and convenient for consumers and whanau and foster professional satisfaction," the strategy said.

The SDHB hoped enough GP practices would adopt the strategy so that about one-third of the southern population would quickly be covered by the initiatives, which would then be fine-tuned.

Early priorities were orthopaedics; dermatology; ear, nose and throat; women’s health; mental health and addictions; geriatrics; and high-volume but low-complexity medical services.

The SDHB will hold a series of meetings in the region in the next two weeks to seek feedback.

January 31

10am: Oamaru, Oamaru Opera House.

3.30pm: Cromwell, The Gate.

7pm: Queenstown (non-public).

February 1

10.30am: Invercargill, Ascot Park Hotel.

2.30pm: Balclutha, Cross Rec Centre.

6pm: Dunedin, Hutton Theatre.


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