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Decade in the red

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

Wairarapa District Health Board will soon see red on its financials for the 10th year running.

But a $5million government funding boost may help the DHB get closer to breaking even next financial year.

The DHB has been running at a loss, or budgeted deficit, since 2007/08, and was recently given a “red” rating in a Treasury stocktake.

It’s a system that’s been labelled “crazy” by Yes We Care coordinator Simon Oosterman, with DHBs across the country continually being asked “to do more with less”.

The Treasury’s remarks included that the Wairarapa DHB “may be having trouble funding asset maintenance and repairs” after running material deficits for “a number of years”, with another planned deficit for the 2016/17 year.

It said the DHB had a “weak” balance sheet, with a high, but declining, allocation of resources to external providers.

However, a Wairarapa DHB spokesperson has confirmed this continuing deficit did not compromise the quality of services, with maintenance budgets “prioritised towards any compliance and Health & Safety issues identified in parallel with business continuity”.

“Some lower priority items may need to be deferred but recorded accurately so that long term planning does not omit these.”

Mr Oosterman said DHBs, including Wairarapa’s, did “an amazing job with the funding they have”.

“It’s a crazy system, they have to find ways to save money . . . that are unrealistic because of the funding model.

“By underfunding them they’re being forced to do more with less, but eventually they’ll end up doing less with less.

“People love working for their DHB, so when there are gaps they will often be met by the staff stepping in to [plug them].

“So the DHBs are running on the goodwill of their staff.”

Yes We Care is a coalition consisting of community and patient groups, along with health professionals including Public Services Association members.

Wairarapa DHB chief executive Adri Isbister said the extra $5million in government funding, which would bring total government funding to $144 million for 2017/18, was just the start of the process for bettering the DHB’s financials.

“While it is tremendously encouraging to have notice of slight increases over and above expected increase in revenue, we cannot underestimate the amount of work still to be done in order to achieve a break even financial result,” she said.

“There is room to improve. We are always seeking ways to provide a better, more efficient service for the people we serve.”

Investment in IT, and improved access to effective healthcare services remained a priority locally, Ms Isbister said.

She was excited about the opportunity for new initiatives in the next year.

“A lot of work is going into preparing for a new chemotherapy outreach service for Wairarapa cancer patients, which I’d hope we can launch this calendar year.

“We are also, along with Hutt Valley DHB, launching the national roll out of the bowel screening programme in July.”

She said there was a great team of staff working within the hospital and in the community, but that there was “a lot of action to take in order to ensure an effective, sustainable health service”.

“It is not without its challenges,” she said.

Other DHBs given a “red” rating by the Treasury were Canterbury, Capital and Coast, Southern, Tairawhiti, and Taranaki.






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