Nelson Marlborough District Health Board least affected by blunder in health finances

Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman, left  and Dr Peter Bramley, chief executive Nelson Marlborough Health at Nelson ...
Martin De Ruyter/Fairfax NZ

Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman, left and Dr Peter Bramley, chief executive Nelson Marlborough Health at Nelson Hospital.

The Nelson Marlborough District Health Board has weathered the budget blunder that has left other health boards millions of dollars short.

The government admitted a Ministry of Health mistake on Friday that meant some DHBs were given too much money and others not enough in Budget 2017.

Nelson Marlborough Health chief executive Peter Bramley​ said the Ministry of Health's miscalculation "thankfully" didn't affect the health board too much.

In May, it was announced the total funding allocated to Nelson Marlborough DHB for the 2017/18 financial year was $417 million. As part of the error, the health board was over allocated $136,784, which was the smallest variance among the 20 DHBs.

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In a statement, Ministry of Health director-general Chai Chuah​ confirmed an internal ministry error "meant that draft figures were formally submitted for Budget 2017 funding allocations for DHBs, rather than final figures".

"The difference between the draft and final figures amounts to $38 million, which is being correctly redistributed amongst DHBs."

Collectively, DHBs were awarded $439m in the Budget. Nelson Marlborough Health was one of 14 DHBs that were overpaid and will have to give up some of their funds, while six were short-changed.

The error means Capital & Coast was over-allocated by about $3.7m, Hawke's Bay nearly $2m, Hutt about $3.65m and Wairarapa nearly $1.5m.

Bramley said each DHB was told after the Budget announcement that a mistake had been made, but it was told it could keep the funds. That changed last week when it was revealed that was not the case.

"That doesn't affect us unduly but you can imagine for a DHB that was expecting that additional money, had started started planning on how they would allocate it and now they will have to unwind that."

The planned Nelson Marlborough Health expenditure of $417 million for the 2017/18 year.
Supplied

The planned Nelson Marlborough Health expenditure of $417 million for the 2017/18 year.

Bramley said the health board received almost $15m more than it had the previous year, which reflected the region's share of the population which was 3.38 per cent.

A "fair chunk" of that would be spent on wage increases for staff across the sector while another big chunk would go on increased cost pressures and inflation. 

"The good news story in the Budget is that we did get some extra money.

"Most of it, sadly, will go to keeping the business of health running."

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In the Nelson Marlborough region, about $1.3m was spent every day by the health board across the health system. 

The total cost of the workforce was $183.1m across 1950 full-time equivalent roles. 

Another significant cost in the budget came from sending patients outside the region to other DHBs for treatment. The big drivers for surgery outside the region were cardiothoracic surgery, neurology and cancer care.

"This coming year we have allowed for another $1.2m in costs to ensure that those that are providing services that we can't provide for our patients, are covered."

Another significant part of the budget would be spent on pharmaceuticals.

Bramley said the reality was that there was a limited amount of health funding available. 

"There is probably never the health dollars we would all like, the practical reality is that it is constrained."

The health board were aiming for a surplus of $3.5m by the end of the financial year in order to prepare for the rebuild of Nelson Hospital. It was on track with a year-to-date surplus of $3.2m at the end of April. 

Through a savings plan, Bramley said the health board aimed to keep investing in initiatives to improve health. 

Its savings programme had generated in excess of $5m this year, at least $3m of which Bramley said would be invested back into new services, including strengthening the intensive care unit service, respiratory nursing services, antenatal parenting support and more resources into primary mental health care.

"That's what we get excited about, trying to improve the health of our community by improving access to services and reducing inequality."​

 - Stuff

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