Deficit at DHB blamed on data

20:11, Sep 09 2012

The Southern District Health Board chief says inadequate and unclear information from management to the board contributed to the $13.2 million deficit, revealed on Thursday.

Yesterday, board chairman Joe Butterfield said consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers had been brought in because the 2011-12 financial year was disastrous and the system of reporting had to be improved to avoid a repeat.

Mr Butterfield told the hospital committee earlier in the week that he needed to know with more confidence what the hospital provider figures said about where the board would end up at the end of the year.

"I can't afford to wait till December or January before I know ‘hell, I'm in the poo'."

Board member Richard Thomson said at the same committee meeting that the board needed to be clued in so better questions could be asked earlier.

Yesterday, when Mr Butterfield was asked if he felt the board had been in the dark about the severity of its financial position, he said: "We are not as up to date as we should be."


Mr Butterfield has made comments in committee and board meetings in the past year that indicated it was hard work to understand what impact the data would have on the board's finances.

Comments ranged from colours in graphs that were hard to identify and the size of the print, to lack of comparative data from previous years.

Hiring consultants to review how information was managed "wasn't cheap" but it was necessary, he said.

He did not know what the final bill would be. The decision to bring in outside help was a decision the board and management had made jointly.

On Thursday, director Graham Jelley showed the board what it could expect.

This included graphs that show complaints received by the DHB, the number of smokers in hospital provided with advice and help to quit, and elective theatre use.

Mr Jelley said board meetings needed to be less retrospective and "more forward thinking" with a way to manage how information was used.

Mr Thomson said he was largely happy with the way data would be presented but said getting more raw data for both Southland Hospital and Dunedin Hospital would show if one site was struggling.

"If the board had two factories, they need to have raw data to show both were productive. Overall [data] could disguise that one shop is a dog."

Mr Butterfield said the board was not confident both hospitals were benefiting patients equally.

Board member Kaye Crowther said data reporting also needed to be improved for the Southern PHO, prevention health, and Public Health South, as they made up more then half the budget.

Some reporting on community health was not good and timely, she said.

Yesterday, Mr Butterfield said management had accepted making necessary improvements.

While the new way of reporting was expected to improve the patient path in the health system, it would likely be less costly, he said.

Southern District Health Board deputy chief executive Lexie O'Shea did not respond to questions directed to management yesterday.

The Southland Times