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More beds are still needed urgently at Dunstan Hospital but in-house options to secure extra capacity now seem more likely than the construction of another ward, Central Otago Health Services Ltd (Cohsl) leaders say.
Cohsl chairman Allan Kane said last November the hospital would need to be extended within four years if current growth in the Central Otago district continued, and if the hospital did not receive significant additional funding in the meantime, it was likely services there would need to be reduced.
Cohsl acting chief executive Debi Lawry and former Cohsl chief executive Karyn Penno said in this year’s Cohsl annual report the number of patients in Dunstan’s Vincent ward had increased to 2942 in 2017-18, up 3.9% on the previous year.
"The population growth [in Central Otago] continues to place pressure on inpatient services, with physical and resourced capacity increasingly stretched to maximum capacity.
"...We have no doubt that the years ahead will remain challenging as we face a growing demand for services which significantly outweighs our current capacity to supply those services," they said.
At present, Dunstan has 24 beds and a two-bed assessment unit.
However, while more beds were needed, now was "not a good time" to be asking the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) "for more money and beds", Mr Kane said.
Capacity would be an issue after "the next couple of years ... in the not too distant future", but because of the SDHB’s financial constraints and moves to "try and keep people out of hospital", other ways to gain extra capacity other than extending Dunstan hospital were being explored, he said.
Ms Lawry said the other options included looking at things such as patient flows and earlier discharges.
There was also a continued focus on caring for more people in the community rather than admitting them to hospital, although this put even more pressure on district nursing and allied health teams, which were already stretched, Ms Lawry said.
When asked after his recent presentation to the Alexandra, Clyde and Districts Business Group if a new hospital should one day be built elsewhere because of strong population growth in Cromwell and Wanaka, Mr Kane said: "if you were starting from scratch it may be that you would build a hospital in Wanaka or Cromwell.
"But we’re not.
"We already have Dunstan Hospital in Clyde and the chances of shifting the hospital are very small.
"It’s more likely that there would be more services provided to Wanaka and Cromwell such as telemedicine, and radiology, and assessment beds, and transport systems [to Clyde]".
Cohsl recorded a $56,032 surplus in the 2017-18 year, which was "remarkably close to a break-even position for the year", representing just 0.4% of $13 million total income, Mr Kane said.