Drop in elective surgery hits DHB coffers

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 19/02/2013

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The number of ACC operations in Taranaki Base Hospital has halved in four years.

But the numbers - which are denting the Taranaki District Health Board's income - should recover when the hospital's six new operating theatres become operational later this year.

ACC confirmed to the Taranaki Daily News, through an Official Information Act request, that since the 2008-09 financial year, elective surgery has dropped from 660 operations to 370 in 2011-12.

At the same time, the board has budgeted for $1,021,000 in September last year but received $815,000.

For the same period the previous year, ACC operations were bringing in $1,214,000.

Taranaki DHB chairman Mary Bourke said the drop in ACC surgery had been a concern for the board for quite some time.

The board was constantly monitoring the situation, as was management. Discussions between management and ACC were continuing, Ms Bourke said.

Another issue was that ACC had tightened up on the number of operations it was approving, Ms Bourke said.

ACC senior adviser Mary Clarke said the percentage of surgery requests ACC had declined had remained stable during the past four years.

Yesterday, hospital general manager Rosemary Clements said the ACC clampdown on referrals, where ACC was ensuring they adhered to criteria, began in 2008-09.

"I think there were referrals made then that wouldn't be accepted today." Also, the Taranaki DHB elective surgery numbers were affected by surgeons choosing which hospital - either Southern Cross or the Taranaki DHB - they went to.

And while surgeons might use the Taranaki DHB's ACC contract they might still do the surgery at Southern Cross, she said.

"At the end of the year our hope is that they use our contract and use our hospital."

There were four theatres available in the old hospital that could be used for major surgery and one for minor surgery.

"We're really hoping that going into the new hospital will raise our revenue from the elective surgical contract," Mrs Clements said.

Meanwhile everything appears to be on track to lift the figures.

In her report to the board this month, Mrs Clements told the board that the redesigned theatre schedule in the new hospital wing would ensure capacity for ACC surgery lists "and we're working with consultants to ensure these will be well utilised".

Meanwhile, the "very exciting" new hospital development, called Project Maunga, was on budget and on time and it was expected the big move would take place as soon as July or August, she said.

UNDER THE KNIFE

The largest numbers of ACC elective surgery at Taranaki DHB are for knees, followed by shoulders, general, wrists-hands, ankles-feet and spine. Taranaki DHB elective surgery requests 2008-09 – 890; ACC-approved 660 2009-10 – 751; 525 2010-11 – 659; 489 2011-12 – 492; 370

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