Funding frustration surfaces at forum
Funding frustration bubbled to the surface as the Southern District Health Board and WellSouth sought public feedback on their proposed primary and community health services strategy.
At a public forum, held on Wednesday, Southern DHB strategy, primary and community directorate executive director Lisa Gestro presented the major issues facing the health sector in the south, including access to services, lack of communication between healthcare providers, variance of costs for similar services and perceptions of variable service quality.
Some of the solutions being explored included increasing self-care options for patients, further use of new technologies including telehealth, and introducing an integrated electronic health record for patients to improve continuity of care.
However, Waihopai Health Services clinical director Dr Sier Vermunt, who was sceptical about the potential effectiveness of the proposed strategy, said previous strategies had not addressed underlying problems.
‘‘When I first started in practice, the same thing happened at that time, and every five or six years this knowledge is rediscovered, you’ve discovered it again this year.’’
Vermunt also highlighted that increased compliance demands had reduced the amount of time spent consulting with patients during their appointments.
He did not believe patient experience could improve without increases to funding, noting ‘‘five minutes extra in terms of that con- sultation with the patient would mean the Government has to increase funding by about 50 per cent.’’
Southern DHB chief executive Chris Fleming said he accepted the feeling of deja vu from health professionals.
‘‘I can’t counteract your statement about you’ve ‘heard it before’, you can’t trust me until you see the actions that go on on this.
‘‘Equally, are you ready to be challenged, because we do have to break the models of how we are operating.’’ He highlighted the partnership between the SDHB and WellSouth was the key difference between the current strategic planning project and previous efforts.
WellSouth chief executive Ian Macara did not agree that funding was an issue.
‘‘We recognise there is enough funding coming into our region, we’re not as well off as maybe some of the further north areas, but what we’ve got top do is ensure the resource we do get is best used.’’
Former Invercargill city councillor and former Southland Hospital Board administrator Geoff Piercy said that many of the issues facing the health system today were similar to those the hospital board dealt with 30 years ago.
He said that cost remained a significant barrier to many accessing medical care but emphasised the strategic focus needed to remain on people.
‘‘They’ve got [a] $4.5 billion surplus, we’ve got kids starving in the streets, we’ve go people waiting in agony for hip replacements. I had mine done ... the whole thing was brilliant in the hospital, once I got there.’’