DHB's gym subsidy helps cut sick days

Sick days among South Canterbury District Health Board staff have fallen by 2 days for each fulltime employee in the past year, saving $80,000.

South Canterbury District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said gym subsidies offered to employers by the DHB were among the initiatives that had helped reduce sick leave in the past year.

Figures show an average of 5 sick days were taken for each fulltime worker in the past year, compared with eight the previous year.

The DHB has confirmed it will continue subsidised gym memberships for another year, but will not transfer from Performance Training Company to Caroline Bay Trust Aoraki Centre.

"Some staff have raised the issue of whether they could have a subsidy to go to other gyms in town, however, our focus has been on keeping the cost per person as low as possible to ensure that it is attractive for all staff, regardless of their income levels."

Mr Fleming said the subsidy programme, which began two years ago, had had a pleasing uptake, with 220 staff joining last year.

"Based on the results to date and the overall levels of participation, we have agreed to continue it for another year."

He declined to say how much each gym membership cost, but confirmed that the net cost to the DHB was about $20,000 a year, which equates to 10 per cent of the overall savings.

Mr Fleming said the fall in sick leave and an increase in staff retention had saved the DHB about $400,000, or $200,000 a year.

He said a range of other initiatives were also likely to have contributed to the improved health of staff, including a workplace wellness programme called Health 4 You, and the Hadlow to Harbour, Sea 2 Sea and Relay for Life events.

The DHB had also increased staff flu immunisations by about 20 per cent and staff were given free access to the council-run swimming pools until the aquatic centre opened.

"We expect that all of these would have contributed in varying ways to our improved results."

The Timaru Herald