Gov­ern­ment ne­glects the south

OPIN­ION

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By Labour Party health spokesman DAVID CLARK

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 And fur­ther­more, the DHB’s Dunedin ter­tiary hos­pi­tal is most out of date of any of the metropoli­tan fa­cil­i­ties in New Zealand.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.

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