4 Aug 2017

Southern DHB in a 'slow motion train crash'

6:56 pm on 4 August 2017

Southern DHB is in "crisis" and has been described as being a "slow motion train crash" in a letter signed by senior medical staff.

Yesterday RNZ reported that 10 prostate cancer patients at Dunedin Hospital had to wait seven months for urgent surgery, which was meant to be done within a month.

Hospital urologists say they have repeatedly asked for more resources, and staff shortages were affecting waiting times and patient care.

Urological Society chair Stephen Mark has described the situation as a "crisis of patient care".

In another case, a shortage of intensive care beds at Dunedin Hospital meant one man had to wait a month to get open heart surgery, after the procedure was delayed three times.

And the union for hospital workers said the hospital's eye clinic was so crowded patients regularly had to sit on the floor.

Dunedin Hospital entrance.

Photo: RNZ

Checkpoint with John Campbell has been leaked a letter signed by several senior medical staff at the hospital and addressed to representatives of DHB management.

It was sent in April and has yet to receive an adequate response.

It described a "a slow motion train crash" at the hospital and said "nothing has been to prevent the crisis the DHB now faces."

The Southern District Health Board has admitted the failings and said it expects an external review of the urology service will be completed within days.

Prime Minister Bill English said yesterday that Dunedin Hospital was not in crisis.

'Things have got to change at Southern' - Health Minister

John Campbell and Jonathan Coleman.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, left, speaking with John Campbell this evening. Photo: Screenshot

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said some patients at Dunedin Hospital were getting unacceptable service but the DHB was getting enough money.

He told Checkpoint clearly the hospital had not been working as well as it could and things had to change at the DHB.

"The management needs to get their act together to deliver services.

"But the big picture is this DHB was [financially] the worst in the country and that is why I sacked the board in 2015.

"This has been the cot-case DHB, it can't be turned around in 10 minutes.

"But it's not a matter of money."

Dr Coleman said that the Southern DHB Commissioner Kathy Grant had done a very good job and halved the DHB's deficit since taking over.

He said the government treated Southern the same as other DHBs, but they were able to provide services within the specified timeframe and within budget.

And Dr Coleman said things would improve at the DHB.

The number of surgeries had already increased by 33 percent, and there would be the capacity to double the number of ICU beds by August next year - at the cost of $25m.

The region was also getting a huge hospital rebuild and the DHB had received a $750m increase in funding over the past nine years, Dr Coleman said.

"Third World health system" - GP

Dunedin GP Daniel Pettigrew said patients were waiting so long because of insufficient resources and that the region was heading towards a "Third World health system".

"This is not just a urology problem, its Southern DHB, we are experiencing similar, maybe not to the same extreme, but similar kind of experiences with referring patients to many other departments in the Southern DHB.

"There's obviously been stories in the media about surgery and opthomology and various other departments down here but it's just across the board."

Three senior staff leave Southern DHB

Caucus run 21/07/15

David Clark said the timing of the three resignations was largely coincidental. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The resignation of three senior staff at the beleaguered Southern District Health Board is unfortunate timing, Labour MP David Clark says.

Mr Clark, Labour's health spokesperson and the Dunedin North MP, said the chief financial officer, the human resources manager, and the head of nursing had resigned in the past 48 hours.

He said the timing of the resignations was largely coincidental and each person resigned for different reasons.

Mr Clark said the loss of experienced staff was unfortunate timing as the DHB struggles with understaffing and resourcing issues that have seen patient care severely delayed.

The Southern DHB has confirmed the resignations.

Chief executive Chris Fleming said the changes came as a result of the board's ongoing leadership restructuring.

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