19 May 2012

Auckland DHB sets June target to balance books

6:20 am on 19 May 2012

Auckland District Health Board is working urgently to make savings and defer unnecessary spending to eliminate a deficit by late June.

The DHB has an unexpected deficit of $6.4 million and says it is determined to balance the books this financial year.

The board says overspending on staff has been mainly responsible for driving it into the red from February, although the deficit eased slightly last month.

It says on a budget of $1.8 billion, it can easily tackle the deficit, even though the six-week time scale is tight.

The board says patient safety won't be affected and chief medical officer Margaret Wilsher says patients won't notice cost saving measures.

Board chair Lester Levy says the DHB is looking at its inventory and discretionary expenditure, and at reducing contractor and temporary staff numbers.

However a staff member who is also a union delegate says she worries about safety and a possible loss of services.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists national executive member Judy Bent says many staff are feeling demoralised over tight financial controls.

Ms Bent, Greenlane Surgical Unit's clinical director, says staff sympathise with senior managers but she worries about whether services may need to be reduced.

"Training and quality initiatives and meetings are all part of the business that has to continue and a deferral beyond a few weeks would be very bad for patient safety," she says.