Canterbury health boss keeps mum on potential health cuts

CDHB chief executive David Meates says the board is performing well despite its financial woes.
DAVID WALKER/STUFF

CDHB chief executive David Meates says the board is performing well despite its financial woes.

Canterbury's health boss is refusing to answer questions about what services are at risk of "unprecedented" funding cuts.

Stuff revealed this week that former Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) acting chairman Mark Solomon warned the Ministry of Health in July that "significant service cuts of unprecedented scale" would be needed if the ministry did not approve the board's planned deficit for this financial year.

DHBs are required to get ministry approval for deficits but director general of health Chai Chuah told the CDHB in March that a $61m deficit was "unlikely to be acceptable".

Since then, the CDHB submitted its annual plan for the 2017-18 with a deficit of $53.6m.

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CDHB chief executive David Meates said on Tuesday the confirmed deficit was $51.8m but refused to say what services would be cut if it was not approved.

"The 2017-18 Annual Plan is with the ministry and we are continuing discussions with the them to reach a final agreed annual plan," he said.

"Canterbury DHB has remained focused on ensuring the most efficient delivery of services. In the last 12 months alone, the total efficiencies and costs avoided have equated to close to $90m."

In June, Solomon told the ministry: "We have considered whether there are any alternatives to deficit funding, and we do not believe there are any further opportunities for cash flow efficiencies other than those we already have in place."

The ministry asked Solomon to come up with a cost-saving plan, to which he answered in July:  "To be clear, savings of the scale that you are requiring will necessitate significant service cuts of unprecedented scale . . . Moreover, they would result in inequitable access to services for the Canterbury population when compared with the rest of the country."

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In December, Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman wrote to the CDHB with his expectation for a $17m deficit in 2017-18 without "reductions in frontline health services". 

Coleman had since revised his expectations with a new, undisclosed deficit figure.

Ministry director critical projects Michael Hundleby said the ministry was reviewing the CDHB's annual plan.

Meates said Canterbury had delivered planned savings and efficiencies every year and was meeting national health targets despite post-earthquake challenges and rapid population growth surpassing projections.

It was one of only three DHBs to achieve five out of the six health targets set by the Ministry of Health in June.

The Shorter Stays in ED target – to have 95 percent of patients admitted, transferred and discharged from the emergency departments within six hours – was the one not achieved, with the CDHB missing it by 0.6 per cent.

"Given the huge pressures that our health system has been under, including extremely busy general practice after-hour services and the highest emergency department presentation days in Canterbury's history, the focus on ensuring that patient flow has been maintained has been outstanding," Meates said.

The CDHB was ranked in the top four for delivering faster cancer treatment, increased immunisation and raising healthy kids. The other targets it achieved were for better help for smokers to quit and improved access to elective surgery.

 - Stuff

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