DHB chief says surgery performance targets met

A recovery plan to lift Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's performance on delivering elective or planned surgeries has hit stringent central government targets.

Board chief executive Chris Fleming said at the end of June they had delivered on Ministry of Health targets and delivered 6174 discharges - 27 discharges ahead of plan. Fleming said the final number may see a small change, due to the release of results on August 4 of patient flows between DHBs.

Between October and December last year, the board under-delivered on elective surgeries, placing it as the worst performing of the 20 DHBs, when it met 94 per cent of its target.

Board staff had been under pressure and the board was placed under intensive monitoring.

A combination of staff illness and unexpected events contributed to the poor performance.

Within the four-surgeon ear, nose and throat department, one surgeon went on maternity leave, another broke their arm in a mountainbike accident and a locum cancelled their contract at short notice. An anesthetist who was unwell further compounded matters.

The board were put under further pressure in January when the Ministry of Health said it wanted them to complete an additional 86 elective surgeries.

As part of a recovery plan, the board outsourced the additional electives to Blenheim's Churchill Private Hospital Trust and Nelson's Manuka Street Hospital. The board used extra funding from the ministry for ear, nose and throat surgery, general surgery, orthopaedics and eye surgery.

Speaking at yesterday's monthly board meeting, Fleming said the board would continue to monitor their performance daily.

The pressure remains. By January 2015 a patient must wait no longer than four months for a first specialist visit and to be waitlisted for surgery.

"There is a lot of misinformation about the shifting from five months to four months, like there was when moving from six months to five months," Fleming said in the board's monthly report.

"Often the suggestion is that tightening the target will reduce access.

"Indeed, the transition of moving from five months to four months poses two options: increase production to clear the hump that is generated to reduce the waiting times, or tighten access for a period of time to allow the hump to be addressed. The reality is our approach will be a mix of both."

The Marlborough Express