Top pay bracket at DHB expands

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 12:11 21/12/2013

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More than 200 Nelson Marlborough District Health Board employees are earning more than $100,000 a year.

While the DHB has been on a cost-cutting drive since February, it has increased the number of staff in its top wage bracket by 17 people.

In the last financial year the DHB paid out a total of $874,006 to 37 employees who had their employment terminated. Its annual report said most of these payments were due to redundancy or retirement gratuities.

Five employees were paid $39,837 in severance pay.

The board now employs 208 people who earn more than $100,000 per annum, up from last year's 191.

At the lower end of the scale, 29 employees make between $100,000 and $109,999 each, all the way up to one person who earns between $400,000 and $410,000.

The median salary of those earning more than $100,000 was between $230,000 and $239,999. This year there were six people in that wage bracket.

The board's annual report said 174 of those in the $100,000-plus group were or had been medical, dental, nursing or allied health employees.

Chief executive Chris Fleming said at a board meeting this week that the DHB paid high salaries relative to other New Zealand DHBs, and the cause was a high ratio of senior doctors and nurses to juniors.

A spokeswoman for the board said it could not identify who the top earner was or which department he or she worked in, due to privacy laws.

Records from the State Services Commission show that the chief executive's salary dropped after Mr Fleming took over from former chief executive John Peters in February.

Mr Peters earned between $280,000 and $289,999 during the six months between July 1, 2012 and December 31, when he left. After replacing Mr Peters in February, Mr Fleming took home between $120,000 and $129,999 before the end of the financial year on June 30.

Mr Fleming said that although the board had placed restrictions on spending, it had still been able to meet all targets for elective or planned surgeries within Ministry of Health timelines.

"We can be proud that when faced with the challenging situation that presented in February 2013, our staff, management and board supported initiatives that led us to finish the year in a much improved position."

Board chairwoman Jenny Black said staff needed to be congratulated on how they had managed a "very challenging year".

The DHB was placed under intensive monitoring in January due to its ongoing budgeting challenges. It received $420 million in funding, and at the end of last year it was looking at an $8.2m deficit.

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After making $5.2m in savings, the board announced in June that it had budgeted for a $3m deficit this year, but ended the year with a deficit of $2.9m instead.

The DHB's financial monitoring framework was changed from "deteriorating" to "remedial" in September.

During the 2012-13 financial year, the board paid $179m to community health providers, general practitioners and other DHBs for providing care to Nelson and Marlborough people. Nelson and Wairau hospitals received $238m, and governance and administration of its funding needed $6m.

The board has a savings plan of $6.7m, which is 1.6 per cent of revenue, to return to break-even point by June 30 next year. A representative from the National Health Board said that based on its performance this year, the DHB could return to standard monitoring by the end of 2013.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation organiser Denise McGurk said the increase in the number of DHB employees earning salaries of more than $100,000 was "surprising".

"Very few of our hard-working members would be in this group," she said. "If they are, then they're being renumerated for their experience and their expertise."

- The Nelson Mail

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