Hos­pi­tal fund­ing cut a bit­ter pill

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By LEE JAMIESON

The Cen­tral Otago com­mu­nity came out in force to a public meet­ing in Alexan­dra about a pro­posed 5 per cent South­land Dis­trict Health Board fund­ing cut to Dun­stan Hos­pi­tal.

More than 700 peo­ple packed the Alexan­dra Com­mu­nity Theatre last Wed­nes­day night in an ef­fort to re­tain the ser­vices the com­mu­nity owned hos­pi­tal pro­vides.

Cen­tral Otago Health Ser­vices Limited has run the hos­pi­tal for the past 15 years.

Chair­man Rus­sell McGe­orge said the de­mand for the hos­pi­tal’s ser­vices had grown by about 20 per cent and fund­ing needed to be in­creased to re­flect this.

Dun­stan Hos­pi­tal gen­eral manager Karyn Penno said if the hos­pi­tal did not get fund­ing to­wards its growth there would be an­other 5 per cent deficit on top of the 5 per cent SDHB fund­ing cuts mean­ing a loss of about $1 mil­lion from its bud­get for next year.

‘‘It didn’t oc­cur to us that we wouldn’t get fund­ing for the growth we have been experiencing over the past few years.’’

Penno said there were reg­u­larly up to 28 pa­tients at the hos­pi­tal and cuts to fund­ing could re­duce in­pa­tient num­bers to 16 beds.

‘‘Where are those peo­ple go­ing to go?’’

Am­bu­lance costs to trans­port pa­tients to other hos­pi­tals would cost about $350,000 an­nu­ally, she said.

Fund­ing cuts could re­duce nurs­ing num­bers and the qual­ity care of pa­tients.

‘‘By the time we have each nurse deal­ing with eight pa­tients it’s not safe any­more.’’

COHSL clin­i­cal direc­tor Dr Rob Visser said Dun­stan Hos­pi­tal’s av­er­age costs were $890 (GST’s ex­cluded) a day. In­clud­ing am­bu­lance fees, trans­fer­ring pa­tients to Dunedin Hos­pi­tal would cost about $1373 daily and $3869 to treat se­ri­ously ill pa­tients in a high de­pen­dency unit.

On av­er­age there were six ad­mis­sions to Dun­stan each day; the av­er­age length of stay be­ing just over three days. There would only be room for four pa­tients daily and two would need to be trans­ported else­where, he said.

‘‘Th­ese pa­tients would be block­ing beds for those need­ing elec­tive surgery in In­ver­cargill or Dunedin.’’

Be­cause Dun­stan had no emer­gency depart­ment there were al­ready sig­nif­i­cant cost sav­ings made to the SDHB as the com­mu­nity pays GPs for emer­gency care, he said.

Dun­stan se­nior clin­i­cian Matt Born said it would be those need­ing acute care that would end up hav­ing to travel by am­bu­lance or he­li­copter to other hos­pi­tals hence en­dan­ger­ing their lives.

It would be dif­fi­cult find­ing am­bu­lance ser­vices to cater for the trans­porta­tion of more pa­tients to Dunedin as cur­rently ‘‘it was not in­fre­quent that there isn’t an am­bu­lance avail­able’’.

The fa­cil­i­ties Dun­stan pro­vided for fam­i­lies to be to­gether needed to be pre­served, Born said.

Cen­tral Otago Health Inc chair Ainsley Webb said the com­mu­nity owned, funded and pro­tected Dun­stan Hos­pi­tal.

‘‘Few com­mu­ni­ties in New Zealand have raised so much to pro­vide for the equip­ment, fur­ni­ture and fit­tings of their lo­cal hos­pi­tal.’’

In 2013 the com­mu­nity fundraised more than $2m for a CT scan­ner – ‘‘Where else does this hap­pen on such a large scale’’.

SDHB board plan­ning and fund­ing direc­tor San­dra Bor­land said sav­ings needed to be made across the sec­tor.

No de­ci­sions had been made, ne­go­ti­a­tions were still con­tin­u­ing, she said.

‘‘We would not like to see the sce­nario that you have pre­sented to­day. The stark re­al­ity is that as a na­tion we can­not af­ford to pro­vide health care in the way that we do now . . . there is not enough money in the pot to do it the same way.’’

Dun­stan sup­porter Shirley Al­abaster said it was only a few years ago the com­mu­nity had such a meet­ing and ‘‘we got a new hos­pi­tal’’.

The com­mu­nity had a voice, and could write let­ters of sub­mis­sion to their MPs, she said.

Alexan­dra res­i­dent Gerry Eck­hoff said pro­vin­cial hos­pi­tals were given pri­or­ity fund­ing over ru­ral ar­eas.

‘‘We are sim­ply an itch that at times gets a lit­tle scratch.’’

Panel mem­bers at a public meet­ing in the Alexan­dra Com­mu­nity Theatre about pro­posed fund­ing cuts to Dun­stan Hos­pi­tal, from left, Dun­stan se­nior clin­i­cian Matt Born, Cen­tral Otago Health Ser­vices Ltd clin­i­cal direc­tor Dr Rob Visser, Dun­stan gen­eral manager Karyn Penno, South­ern Dis­trict Health Board plan­ning and fund­ing direc­tor San­dra Bor­land and SDHB chief ex­ec­u­tive Ca­role Heatly.

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