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Hospital directed to find savings

New figures reveal that Wairarapa Hospital must save half a million dollars from its total budget by July.

Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand has set 20 health districts the target of saving $105 million by reducing staff spending, such as overtime.

Among them are Wairarapa Hospital, which has just 10 weeks to find savings of $500,000 – which represents seven percent of its annual budget.

Like many districts in New Zealand, Wairarapa Hospital is experiencing major staff shortages across multiple departments that are causing longer than usual wait times, rostering issues, and the pressure of increased demand for services from patients with complex needs.

Norman Gray, the clinical head of the emergency department [ED] told the Times-Age in Saturday’s edition that there is already intense pressure on staff and resources within the ED, and long waits forced patients to wait outside.

Executive operations leader for HNZ Wairarapa Kieran McCann acknowledged there are pressures and times when volumes were higher than usual, from high occupancy, workforce shortages, and staff absences, but said that, despite this, “Our priority is always to ensure that patients are getting the best possible care and we want to reassure people that they will be seen and treated.”

The saving targets were released to RNZ on Friday after a series of leaks about which health districts faced what savings targets, the public broadcaster has reported.

When the Times-Age approached Te Whatu Ora last week with questions about Wairarapa Hospital’s budget, the questions were lodged as an Official Information Act request.

Te Whatu Ora has now revealed that several districts have gone over budget in the past three months, and the new savings targets for the 20 health districts are “reducing the overspend, not making cuts”.

Health Minister Shane Reti said last week that the cost-saving measures won’t impact the care patients receive.

“Health NZ is not subject to the same government directive for savings as some other departments,” he said.

“These are operational decisions made by Health NZ, not the government.”

Health NZ chief executive Margie Apa said that patient safety remains the organisation’s top priority, and resources are not being removed from delivering frontline services.

“The measures we are taking are designed to help tighten management controls over budgets so we live within our means,” she said.

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