Surgery throughput, cost mission

A National Health Board (NHB) official seconded to sort out surgical services in Otago and Southland has been asked to find ways to increase throughput while containing or reducing costs, a letter released under the Official Information Act shows.

Joy Farley, of the NHB, was seconded to the board last October for at least a year, reporting directly to Southern District Health Board chief executive Carole Heatly. A letter from Ms Heatly on September 25 to Ms Farley said the NHB would pay her salary, and the board would pick up travel and accommodation costs.

Ms Farley was expected to explore a regional ''hub-and-spoke model'' for surgery; break down elective surgery/acute surgery by site; produce guidelines for increasing day surgery in certain specialties; recommend ways to increase productivity in operating theatres while containing or reducing costs; produce a feasibility study for moving day surgery from Dunedin Hospital to Wakari Hospital, including impacts on University of Otago staff; and consider the merits of leasing day surgery facilities at Mercy Hospital while new facilities were built.

When contacted, Ms Farley directed questions to the chief executive.

A health board spokesman said Ms Heatly was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Ms Farley is also service implementation manager for the South Island neurosurgical service.

A ninth Dunedin Hospital operating theatre, to be completed in May, is expected to take some pressure off by reducing the amount of elective surgery cancelled because of the pressures of acute work.

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