DHB failing surgery targets

The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board is falling short of its targets for elective or planned surgery.

Chief executive Chris Fleming said at a board meeting that the NMDHB was just under 7 per cent behind its target, and Ministry of Health guidelines required it to deliver 6029 discharges from elective surgery in the 2013-2014 financial year.

At the end of October, ministry reports indicated the board was 139 discharges behind schedule.

"We're not only underdelivering, but we've delivered less than last year," Mr Fleming said.

Mr Fleming said the hospital needed to schedule a further 161 discharges before it would be back on track.

He said there was no one reason that had caused the problem, but he identified lack of information around the planning of elective surgeries as a factor. Other factors included "winter pressure".

One of the strategies the board pushed to make savings was to manage leave balances by getting staff to take time off, but this had reduced the hospital's surgical capacity by resulting in higher absences of staff: "A positive on one indicator impacting the other."

He said a locum had also had an effect on staffing by cancelling on short notice when they were hired to cover an ear nose and throat or ENT surgeon's maternity leave, while another ENT surgeon had injured his hand, leaving him temporarily unable to operate.

Mr Fleming said ENT surgeons had a high rate of discharges compared to other surgeons, meaning their absence affected the hospital's overall discharges more.

He said he would not consider subcontracting the surgery out to private providers to catch up on the discharges, saying it remained an option but would be a last resort.

"We know we've got the surgical capacity in Nelson and Blenheim because we've delivered more than that in the past, Mr Fleming said

"NMDHB clearly has the capacity to deliver to these volumes, and subcontracting privately will reduce the incentive to optimise the utilisation of resources already in place."

The board is also facing a computer upgrade that will cost $805,000 and affect more than half of its fleet of 1752 machines. To conform with a directive from the government's chief information officer, it must migrate all of its computers off Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003 by April 8.

The Nelson Mail