Extra heart surgery headache for ADHB
A funding boost to increase the number of patients undergoing heart surgery hasn’t made life easy for Auckland health bosses.
In October former health minister David Cunliffe committed $50 million over four years to increase the number of operations nationwide.
But finding enough specialist cardiac nurses to carry out the extra operations has been a tough ask for the
District Health Auckland Board.
“Without nurses, you can’t operate on the patients,” ADHB general manager of clinical services Kay Hyman says.
“The Ministry have signalled they want to increase the numbers of cardiac surgery.”
ADHB chief executive Garry Smith recently highlighted cardiac surgery as a “red light” issue because targets are not being met.
However, Ms Hyman says it’s pleasing cardiac waiting lists have reduced from 362 in February 2006 to a more manageable 243 in January this year.
“We aren’t saying we’re on top of the nursing situation, but we’re close to it.”
She says private hospitals are employed to reduce waiting lists, but they have limited bed capacity and can only deal with certain types of operations.
And other health boards normally aren’t able to help because they are full to capacity.
New Zealand Nurses Organisation organiser Mark Lennox, who is assigned to look after nurses at the board, says there’s never a surplus of specialist staff in the sector.
“It’s not just a lack of staff in the theatre suite. You need them in the intensive care unit and right through the process.
“The government put a lot of extra money into cardiac surgery.
“The problem is you’ve got the money to do this but it takes a long time to recreate the workforce.”
He says the board has responded as well as can be expected.
“You need to have an upskilling programme and they’ve been quite good at doing that.
“We need longer term planning rather than short term budget increases or decreases.”
Mr Smith also highlighted elective surgery as a “red light” issue, with targets not being met.
ADHB general operations manager Ngaire Buchanan says waiting lists have dropped, with 10,078 operations being performed between July and December last year, compared with 9863 in 2007.
Pressure has been put on the targets, with a number of vacancies and lack of beds.
Surgery on Saturdays and outsourcing to private hospitals have been used to try to deal with the problem.