Government neglects the south
Whatever one might think of the Southern District Health Board’s priorities, there is no escaping the fact that the funding cuts at Dunstan Hospital are a consequence of the Government’s underfunding of health in the south. There is a sense of de´ja` vu about these cuts. In the 1990s the National Party refused to rebuild Dunstan Hospital. It took a Labour Government to fund Dunstan Hospital as a public facility.
True to form, this National Government have funded health below the rate of inflation in the sector. This means cuts across the country, but the situation is particularly dire in Otago and Southland.
The Southern DHB faces a triple-whammy of funding issues. It has a wide geographic area to service; it trains a significant portion of New Zealand’s health workforce; and it runs old buildings that force the use of outdated inefficient practices. All of these things carry a cost, and it is likely that all of them are contributing to the Southern District Health Board’s growing deficit.
The health funding model needs a thorough and broadranging review. If you dig into the detail, you’ll find that the Southern DHB has the largest geographical area, but doesn’t have the largest rural-adjuster in its funding formula. On top of that, students are important to New Zealand’s future healthworkforce, but it seems likely the DHB isn’t funded properly to train them. And furthermore, the DHB’s Dunedin tertiary hospital is most out of date of any of the metropolitan facilities in New Zealand. Old buildings require more maintenance, but more sinister is the additional cost incurred when staff are forced to carry out operations with outdated equip- ment in an inefficient outdated set-up.
Make no mistake, the Government is responsible for health in the south. It appoints five out of 12 members of the health board. Several others appear to be Government sympathisers. The Government appoints the chair of the health board, and it also has a Crown monitor sitting in on board meetings. The Government has effective control of the Southern DHB. It must take responsibility for the running down of southern health services.
I admire the nurses, doctors and other caring staff. Not only do they do their work under trying conditions, but they seem to have the patience of saints.
Jacqui Dean’s advice to the Southern DHB is ‘cute’ at best, and lily-livered deception at worst. She is propping up the very Government that is underfunding health in the south. Advising them to consult with the community is duplicitous. She needs to take responsibility for her Government’s neglect of the regions.