Tough calls but quality care vital

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Southern District Health Board has been a concerning issue for me since taking office in September 2014.  As Southlanders are all too aware, the SDHB has had longstanding financial issues as well as organisational failures which have had devastating consequences for many of our people.  The Minister was forced to take action, action that the majority feel was a pragmatic and necessary decision.

The SDHB forecasted a final deficit of $27 million and that its deficit position would further increase in 2015/16 to between $30 and $42 million. Over time a number of steps have been taken to drive improvement at the DHB, including the appointment of a Crown Monitor and intensive monitoring by the Ministry of Health.  However, with little to no improvement a commissioner was put in place in June, with a clear mandate to move Southern into a sustainable financial position.

Since their appointment, the commissioner and her team have been focused on meeting with people and gathering relevant information as well as looking at how best to communicate with key stakeholders and the public. Interestingly and since the commissioner has begun her information gathering, the financials have been found wanting and these projection may be found to be even more inaccurate.  The final deficit figure for 2014/15 will be finalised shortly.

The commissioner team was carefully chosen on merit and brings together the right mix of strong financial, governance and clinical skills.  It has been made clear to the commissioner team that Southern is not just Dunedin, despite the commitment by Government to follow through on the rebuild of Dunedin hospital and the urban and rural in some cases, isolated characteristic that makes up the region of Waitaki, Otago and Southland be realised in any decision making.  Moving DHB into a sustainable model will involve hard decision making but the strategy moving forward needs to ensure that people across the region are able to access quality healthcare across the region.

Notwithstanding above, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the hard working, compassionate and dedicated work of the southern health professionals. It is credit to them that people across the south are getting the help they need despite the issues on the whole.  In particular, 11,039 people in the Southern region received elective surgery in the last financial year compared to 8,391 in 2007/08.

And, as a mother I am so happy that all children under 13 are now eligible to receive free doctor's visits. This ensures that our children are able to get the help they need early without parents needing to have concern as to cost.  Along with a number of other measures such as our investment in Early Childhood Education, children are getting the best possible start in life, will be kept healthy, and better placed to achieve their hopes and dreams.

Todd Barclay and I are Southland's strongest advocates in Wellington.  We work together and with vigour, stamina and passion to get wins across the line for Southlanders. We both have particular focusses covering a wide breadth but the common thread that we share is a passion for our dynamic region and the fantastic people in our communities.  We advocate hard.

Just this month I put in a submission to the Electricity Authority on behalf of Southland and I've been working closely with NZTE on various business opportunities for the province. In the past eight months, I have assisted 171 constituents, 13% of which had DHB related concerns.