Waikato DHB member calls for tough talks with Wellington health bosses

Waikato District Health Board member Pippa Mahood says staff are under mounting pressure to meet Government health targets.
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Waikato District Health Board member Pippa Mahood says staff are under mounting pressure to meet Government health targets.

Medical staff are being "stretched beyond belief" as management strive to meet government health targets, a veteran Waikato District Health Board member says. 

Speaking at the final board meeting of the term, Pippa Mahood​ said a growing list of demands by the Health Ministry was having a detrimental impact on staff.

Waikato health bosses this month revealed the board's end-of-year financial surplus of $4.5 million had been downgraded by $500,000 mainly due to costs associated with a new melanoma drug.

Pharmac's funding covers the cost of the drug but not its administration.

READ MORE: Waikato DHB risk losing millions for breaching targets

Mahood said staff across the organisation were under pressure to deliver targets and yet the district health board's own reports showed it was financially under-resourced.

"How aggressive are we being with [the Health Ministry] about the issue of doing more and not being fully resourced for extras above and beyond our budget? Mahood asked staff.

"We get money taken off us if we don't do all that we've got to do."

Earlier this year, it was revealed the Waikato DHB was at risk of losing $2.7m of its elective surgery budget if it failed to met crucial surgery targets.

In reply, Waikato DHB chief executive Nigel Murray said Pharmac had worked diligently to get its funding right, but the extra costs "didn't land exactly right".

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Murray said the government's role was to give health boards tasks to deliver and sometimes staff had to go back and ask questions about affordability.

"This DHB has received additional funding over the years for its population growth ... and there's an expectation that we'll absorb some of those things within that envelope," he said.

Waikato DHB will receive an extra $55 million in new money this year, taking the DHB's total funding to $1.18 billion for 2016/17.

Mahood said the DHB's own indicators "showed more red than green", despite the hard work of staff.

If the pressure on staff continues, some might choose to leave.

"The reality is the tide of people out there, everything else, is starting to take its toll, not only on the people but on our staff ... they're getting stretched beyond belief," Mahood said.

Last week, a letter signed by 13 Waikato orthopaedic surgeons surfaced, claiming hospital managers were stopping them from making follow-up checks on patients so they could do more first appointments to meet Government targets.

Labour's Health spokeswoman Annette King said the doctors' claims were a damning indictment of the health system.

Board chairman Bob Simcock said the board's fundamental role was to deliver the best health benefits to the community with the resources available.

A key consideration, however, had to be the stress placed on staff.

"I'm not sure at this time that there's any reason to believe that there are serious problems in that space," Simcock said.

Meanwhile, DHB director of hospital services Brett Paradine​ updated board members on efforts to achieve the mandatory six-hour national target for length of stay in emergency departments.

Paradine said staff were working on a comprehensive package of initiatives.

Beds in the emergency department were frequently at capacity and demand hadn't eased off after winter.

"Having more staff in ED is obviously a part of this [solution] ... but the issue is about complete patient flow," he said.

 

 - Stuff

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