Rural hospital lifts performance

Ray Anton.
Ray Anton.
More patients needing bed care hospital services are being treated in Balclutha's Clutha Health First rural hospital than previously.

The organisation's chief executive, Ray Anton, said the bed occupancy rate of 78% for the 2013-14 financial year at the 15-bed rural hospital was ''one of the best we've seen for many years''.

Mr Anton said that ending the high turnover of short-stay medical staff at the rural hospital was also paying dividends for the community-owned health service and helping its improved financial and healthcare performance in the last financial year.

''Our medical staff have been with us for years now and they're consistent and they're building confidence for themselves and in them by the referring doctors.''

He said that having doctors on staff for the long term provided a level of experience that had been missing, but that also their colleagues' familiarity with the doctors meant more referrals.

In addition, staff had been actively pursuing professional development and had been gaining skills.

''For many years, we would get doctors here for six months and then they'd go,'' he said.

''Our team overall has gained more skills, it's not just the doctors, but also occupational therapists, physiotherapists, the nursing staff are upskilling to take on more complex rehabilitation patients.''

He said that while surgery would not occur in Balclutha, South Otago patients were increasingly being referred to the centre for their rehabilitation.

It was more expensive to keep patients in acute care in Dunedin Hospital than in Balclutha he said, but the district health board has a fixed contract for 11.7 beds at Clutha Health First and it was in their interests to have those beds filled, he said.

Mr Anton said there had been ''some pull from us, some push from them, we're getting the patients home quicker''.

''They will more quickly think, 'Ah, let's get them out of here, because they belong in South Otago, let's get them to Balclutha, that way we can get them home faster.'

''We actually have access to their systems, we look on their computer and find our patients from South Otago and push them to get them back to us.''

Referrals from the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) had helped Clutha Health First's bottom line this year. Unlike the district health board, the ACC had no fixed agreement with Clutha Health First.

''If we admit one of their patients . . . we charge ACC for that admission on a per night basis,'' he said.

''The more patients we get from ACC or the longer they need rehabilitation, the more income we generate from ACC.''

Clutha Health First recorded $8,647,021 overall income for the year, up from $8,171,970 last year. The not-for-profit organisation recorded a $353,576 surplus for the year.


Clutha Health First

• $353,576 surplus for the year.

• $8,647,021 overall income for the year, up from $8,171,970 last year.

• 78% funded occupancy.

• 43 births up from 24 last year.

• 6 new clinics established: gynaecology nurse specialist service, skin lesions clinic, spirometry clinic, breast care clinic, zoledronate infusion clinic, monthly evening cervical screening clinic

*Source Clutha Health First annual report


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