SDHB patients may have surgery in Timaru Hospital

Photo: ODT files.
Photo: ODT files.
Orthopaedic patients could find themselves being operated on at Timaru Hospital, as the Southern District Health Board tries to clear a lengthening waiting list.

Patients at both Dunedin and Southland Hospitals have had elective operations postponed in recent months as the SDHB tackles severe "bed block", or the inability to use designated hospital beds, which has severely limited access to healthcare.

An SDHB board meeting today will be briefed on management’s latest initiative to enable more people to have their procedures, shifting a surgeon to Timaru Hospital to work from there.

Specialist services executive director Patrick Ng said the idea was being "explored", and would depend on Timaru Hospital having an anaesthetic technician available.

Timaru Hospital would provide theatre staff and inpatient beds as it had excess capacity.

The South Canterbury hospital may not be the only one called on by the SDHB, which is also trying to lease beds from Southern Cross Hospital in Southland.

"We are also looking into outsourcing options for orthopaedics at Christchurch, which is a more practical travel destination for Southland patients than Timaru," Mr Ng said.

Chronic patients and unexpectedly high numbers arriving at emergency departments in recent months have created severe bed block, whereby elective patients cannot get into hospital because serious cases have taken up the beds they might have used.

Many orthopaedics patients are still waiting for operations more than four months after their scheduled date.

The SDHB had to be cautious scheduling catch-up surgery because the Ministry of Health had decided not to pay promised recovery funding money until after the financial year, Mr Ng said.

"This leaves us exposed. We could incur recovery money and not hit the targets and earn the revenue."

The SDHB was told earlier this month that some patients who had waited up to 21 months now faced the prospect of their operations being further postponed.

Last week, the hospital started a new daily "stranded patient rapid round" meeting to assess patients who had been in the hospital for several days.

"We are at the critical point in time where we need to expand and bring in extra resource to help achieve the work that needs to be done," a report, to be considered by the SDHB board today, said.









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