SDHB forecasting 'ugly' $35.9m deficit

The Southern District Health Board's projected deficit is ‘‘pretty ugly and large'' this year even after it slashed millions of dollars from budgets.

Commissioner Kathy Grant spoke to the Otago Daily Times yesterday after appearing before Parliament's health select committee, where she told MPs the 2015-16 forecast deficit was $35.9 million.

Mrs Grant said the figure was ‘‘pretty ugly and large'', but the situation was improving.

‘‘We are committed to delivering an improving financial performance, and that means a decreasing deficit over a number of years.''

The commissioner team has kept the projected deficit under wraps.

The ODT reported yesterday $4.1 million of savings had been found in personnel, clinical supplies, and other areas.

Mrs Grant said patient care would not be affected, as the board was focused on ‘‘efficiency'' measures such as bulk purchasing.

‘‘In order to get to the figure of $35.9 [million], we have been working through plans that deliver savings since the start of the current financial year.''

Mrs Grant appeared alongside chief executive Carole Heatly for the board's annual review.

Eager to raise local health concerns, Dunedin's Labour MPs Clare Curran and David Clark both subbed on to the health select committee for the board's appearance. Both were disappointed with Mrs Grant and Ms Heatly's responses.

Dr Clark called the appearance ‘‘farcical''.

He had asked about the Dunedin Hospital redevelopment project and for detail of the cost-cutting initiatives, and answers had not been forthcoming, he said.

Ms Curran was not satisfied with ‘‘vague'' responses on a range of topics, including questions about the outcry over hospital food and meals on wheels.

The lack of information was frustrating for the public, as well as for MPs, Ms Curran said.

‘‘I was not left reassured that there was a plan in place to deal with the deficit and to provide adequate health services in the region.''

Mrs Grant told the ODT some of the questions had not been adequately flagged in advance.

‘‘A number of the questions that were asked weren't detailed in the questions that we had responded to in writing.''

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