Red alert over Waikato DHB's health targets

The threat of being walloped by a $2.5 million cut in funding each month has spurred the Waikato District Health Board to pull out all the stops to meet the Government’s health targets.

The board could also face spending an extra $2 million before the end of the financial year to meet elective surgery targets.

The board yesterday issued a press release hailing its improved performance in the last financial quarter - particularly in getting emergency department patients dealt with within six hours.

While the results are good for the region’s patients, chief executive Craig Climo has warned about the pressure it is putting on the organisation and its staff.

In his report to today’s board meeting Mr  Climo warned that continuing to meet the Govern dhment’s continually growing demands would require some desperate remedies.

‘‘While the extra surgery is benefiting the people of Waikato, the DHB can ill afford the unplanned expenditure and it is evident the elective processes are not and never have been under control,’’ Mr Climo said. 

‘‘When we have reached times of elective services performance indicator compliance or been close to it, the situation has quickly reverted.

‘‘It is taking an inordinate amount of management and staff time to manage the process. In my view there is too much deference to individual departments and central control is required.’’

Mr Climo said patients were spending a lot of time in the ‘‘red’’ or ‘‘amber’’ categories on waiting times for first specialist assessment and treatment.

‘‘Four months in a row of red will see our elective payments stopped and the payments are about $2.5 million per month.’’

While the health board’s overall finances were in the black to the tune of $260,000, maintaining the ‘‘favourable’’ result would be a lot harder if it had to dip into the coffers to meet the elective targets.

The elective services situation would be discussed in more detail during a report to today’s meeting by Mark Spittal, group manager of Waikato and Thames hospitals.

The staff in the four hospital emergency departments run by the board – Waikato, Thames, Tokoroa and Taumarunui – are deserving of a pat on the back from the board, with the latest health targets revealing 94 per cent of their patients were admitted, discharged or transferred within six hours in October, November and December.

The Government’s target is 95 per cent.

The 6.9 per cent improvement on the previous three months was the highest in the country and takes Waikato from 18th on the table to equal 13th with the Taranaki District Health Board.
There were 23,782 presentations to the emergency departments in the last three months of 2013 – 22,292 of them were seen in less than six hours.

Chief operating officer Jan Adams was pleased. ‘‘The challenge remains to sustain this as we move to the busy winter months,’’ she said.

Immunisation rates remained steady at 87 per cent while Waikato was ranked ninth up to 77 per cent with the More Heart and Diabetes Checks target, helped by the performance of Midlands Health Network.

The quarter two result for Better Help for Smokers to Quit was 97 per cent for the hospitals and 68 per cent in primary care.

Waikato Times