Community cash could help out hospital

19:44, Dec 09 2012
tdn maryb stand
Chairwoman Mary Bourke

The bleak financial performance of Taranaki District Health Board's hospitals has raised suggestions the community could be asked to stump up extra cash to help pay for services.

The TDHB hospital arm's finances remain in the red and debt levels continue to rise, despite millions of dollars being made in savings in the past two years.

This performance is impacting on the TDHB's bottom line, with a previously forecast surplus now reduced to a break-even target for the year.

Board members raised concerns about the hospital's budget over-runs at a meeting last week and Pauline Lockett and Flora Gilkison suggested it might be time to approach the community for funding if services continued to be unaffordable.

But general manager of hospital services Rosemary Clements said "efficiency" projects were already underway.

These projects have been focused on staff, the hospital's biggest expense.


But even with $7 million worth of staff savings made in the past two years, this month's financial performance report shows the hospital operations' debt continuing to increase.

It is expected the hospital provider's budgeted $6.48m debt for 2012-2013 will blow out, leading to questions about how effective the savings have been.

Chairwoman Mary Bourke said more internal information is necessary before any decisions are made about how to raise more funds.

"Going to the community is one option, however I would like to see us do a lot more work internally to be sure we're doing things as effectively as we can before we ask for community assistance for day-to-day runnings," she said.

General manager of finance and corporate services George Thomas puts the costs down to personnel, particularly nurses and sourcing locum staff, and clinical supplies.

He said overall operating expenditure for hospital services continues to increase.

Over the last five years Ms Clements has been working on identifying cost-savings.

She said staff costs make up 57 per cent of the hospital's total costs so it was the obvious place to look for possible cutbacks.

"Two years ago it became obvious that if we kept climbing at the rate we were with staff costs, we would be looking at a $22 million increase over five years," she said.

"That's for the period from 2007 to 2012 and we have managed to save $7 million by stopping it at $15 million."

This has been done by looking at the mix of skilled staff against services.

Taranaki Daily News