DHBs still waiting for annual plans to be signed off

With only four months left in the current financial year, just 12 of the country's 20 district health boards have had their financial plans signed off by Health Minister David Clark.

The situation is adding to financial uncertainty for the cash-strapped DHBs, according to the National Party, which has called on Clark to come clean on the state of DHB finances.

All DHBs have submitted their 2018/19 annual plans for approval but the Ministry of Health has confirmed only 12 have been approved.

National's health spokesman Michael Woodhouse said that more than a year after Clark pledged to rein in deficits, the DHBs were in a weaker financial position.

"Eight months into the latest fiscal year Dr Clark has yet to announce the approval of a single annual plan and he has stalled on releasing any financial details for the DHBs," Woodhouse said.

"I call on Dr Clark to be honest with the New Zealand public about the situation and explain what he and his Government is going to do to stem the tide of neglect by them over the past 16 months."

Counties Manukau DHB told a parliamentary committee last week it was facing a projected deficit of $53.5 million for the current financial year, more than double the $19.8m deficit it ended the 2017/18 financial year with.

"My sources in DHBs across the country say they are in a similar position. Indeed it is likely that the deficits of just three DHBs, Counties Manukau, Canterbury and Southern, will exceed the total deficits of the 20 DHBs in National's last full year in office," Woodhouse said.

Clark said last week that Counties Manukau DHB was one of those boards which had not had its annual plan signed off.

"We're still having some robust conversations with Counties Manukau about their financial position," he said.

Yesterday he said nine years of neglect and underfunding by the previous National government was a challenge for DHBs to recover from.

"Some of them have been finding it tough to bring their finances into balance but I'm confident the DHBs are working hard to make that true," he said.

Meanwhile, monthly financial performance updates, which used to be published on the Ministry of Health website, have still not been posted since the end of June last year.

But Clark has seen them and late last year warned DHBs to lift their game or face more governance or possible changes at board level.

The ministry has said the updates will be posted on the website before the end of this month and Clark said yesterday he understood they would be.

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