IT issue skews surgery data

The Southern District Health Board says a national league table showing it in last place for elective surgery is not a true picture.

In tables published by the Ministry of Health yesterday Southern appeared to be the worst-performing district health board, scoring 90% on a target of improving access to elective surgery. The target is 100%.

The tables cover the first three months of 2012-13.

Patient services executive director Lexie O'Shea said the board had an IT issue since the start of the financial year, which meant it was not able to accurately feed its elective surgery results to the Ministry of Health.

This year was the first the board had reported Otago and Southland figures as one.

The problem was reported to board members recently at the hospital advisory committee.

However, she acknowledged the board was "slightly behind" on elective surgery.

She could not give an estimate of where the board really sat in relation to the others, and said that was still being determined.

A busy winter season affected elective surgery because of pressure on hospital beds.

Mrs O'Shea said the board was referring fewer patients to other boards for surgery, which made its figure lower, but she did not know why that was happening.

The board has also stopped outsourcing to private provider Mercy Hospital this financial year in an effort to control its deficit.

Mrs O'Shea said yesterday the board was "maximising use of our own facilities", but acknowledged it might need to start outsourcing again to meet its targets.

The board's emergency departments result showed more patients waited too long for treatment. However, its position relative to other boards' emergency departments was similar.

Mrs O'Shea said that reflected a busy winter, which put pressure on hospital beds at Southern, as well as in other boards.

The emergency department treated or transferred 86% of patients within six hours, compared with 90% in the previous quarter.

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