Out of area treatment a blow to budget

A higher than expected need for treatment outside the region has delivered a $322,000 blow to the South Canterbury District Health Board's budget for "inter district flows" (IDF).

Chief executive Nigel Trainor said the number of patients needing specialist treatment and procedures outside South Canterbury had put the board over its IDF budget in the first six months of the financial year, which began on July 1.

The board's budget for treatment provided by other DHBs for the full financial year is $23.65 million. By January, its expenditure exceeded budget by 1.36 per cent, Mr Trainor said. However, that did not mean the board would be over budget by a further $322,000 in another six months.

"At this stage, although IDFs are ahead of budget, it is not as a result of individual, very high cost patients, just the volume of patients referred out of the district for procedures and treatment."

Mr Trainor said the Ministry of Health and board set the budgeted volumes based on previous volumes. There would always be variation year to year due to the mix and complexity of treatment required.

IDFs are costs incurred when patients are sent outside their district for health services, including acute admissions, elective surgery, community services and pharmaceuticals. MRI scans are not included in the budget.

Other DHBs have exceeded their budgets for IDFs to date, some by much more. Hutt Valley, had 20 high-cost, one-off cases that put a $1.3m hole in its budget.

They included the $250,000 case of an extremely premature baby and a burns victim with a similar cost.

In the last financial year the South Canterbury board had six cases where patients had to be treated elsewhere, each costing the board more than $100,000.

This year, to date, there has been one discharge over $100,000, Mr Trainor said.

He declined to comment on what the case involved to protect the patient's privacy.

The Timaru Herald