DHB close to budget after call to save

An 11th-hour push to save millions has put the capital's health service back on track even as its finances remain deep in the red.

Capital & Coast District Health Board announced yesterday that it had come in $100,000 under budget for the past financial year, two months after revealing that it was about $3 million off track

The board still posted a loss of $5.9m but it is the best result in years, coming after years of posting massive deficits in the wake of a big hospital upgrade.

The target is for the board to break even next year.

In May, the board revealed it had suffered a "sudden deterioration" in its finances and called on staff to make a last-minute push to save before the end of the financial year.

This included turning off lights, pushing through more elective surgeries and encouraging taking outstanding leave.

Some unions said that the drive placed short-term financial targets before patient care, something the board strongly denied.

Chief executive Debbie Chin has credited staff with helping meet the budget. After a plea to save millions within six weeks, staff had offered more than 80 ideas on how to achieve this.

"Every little bit contributed to making a big difference."

The savings made this time round should continue through the year and help prevent a last- minute squeeze at the end of this financial year, she said.

Board chairwoman Virginia Hope said returning to "break- even" after so many years in the red would free up money to invest in new services.

"When you are trying to save money at the same time that is not so easy."

The Dominion Post