Fund­ing frus­tra­tion sur­faces at fo­rum

The Southland Times - - NEWS - AN­DREW MAR­SHALL

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.’’

Chris Flem­ing

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