'Extraordinary effort' sees health board in the black

LISTENING: Waikato DHB chief executive  Nigel Murray sits through his first board meeting at Te Kuiti hospital.
LISTENING: Waikato DHB chief executive Nigel Murray sits through his first board meeting at Te Kuiti hospital.

Silent and stoic, the Waikato District Health Board's new chief executive acted as an observer at his first board meeting.

The public meeting held at Te Kuiti hospital this week saw board members cram into a much smaller room than their usual Waikato Hospital surrounds.

With a full board in attendance, newly appointed CEO Dr Nigel Murray refrained from speaking throughout the entire hour-and-a-half public meeting.

The end of financial year reports flooded the board and sparked discussion about the shortfalls and successes over the year.

Board chairman Bob Simcock passed on the Minister of Health's congratulations to the board for finishing the year in the black.

"It has been an extraordinary effort for us to get to where we have got - the minster was very worried come winter it was all going to fall apart, but it has not, so thank you."

Provisional forecasts show the DHB will finish $3.8 million ahead of budget for the 2013/14 financial year.

However, despite the overall surplus the two separate divisions of funding - provider arm and funding arm - have recorded significant differences.

The funding arm has recorded an $8.4m surplus which offsets the provider arm's $6.6m deficit - totalling more than $740 million in revenue.

Waikato Hospital chief operating officer Jan Adams told the board there was still $9.4m in unpaid revenue which had been capped to allow for extra acute surgical and medical procedures performed.

Staffing costs including the use of locums were identified as a risk for the board - with it often costing far more than budgeted.

Also, last year the board outsourced $6.9m in elective surgery to mostly private providers as a way to meet the Ministry of Health's target, which aims to have no patient waiting longer than five months for surgery.

In a last-ditch attempt to meet the Ministry of Health's target, surgery volumes were increased last month.

As a result, only eight patients in the district waited longer than five months for surgery as of June 30 compared to the previous month which recorded 239.

In May a board report showed that of the 239 patients waiting more than five months for surgery, 166 were waiting for orthopaedic procedures.

That figure this month dropped to just five.

Across all the Ministry of Health targets, the Waikato District Health Board met three of seven.

Access to elective surgery, wait times for cancer treatments, and cessation help for smokers admitted to hospital were among the top performers.

While the health board improved its previous records in heart and diabetes checks, cessation help for smokers seeing their general practitioners and immunisation rates, it still failed to meet the ministry's expectations.

The district improved its immunisation rate from 85.62 per cent in the third quarter to 89 per cent in the fourth - meaning only 11 per cent of infants aged 8 months missed a vaccination.

Emergency department wait times continued to be a struggle for the board with several breaches over the winter forcing the average down to 91.9 per cent of people seen in less than six hours.

The board's overall achievement showed favourable outcomes for patients despite a tumultuous year of redevelopment both in facilities and governance.

Waikato Times