29 Sep 2017

DHB in desperate need of more money, staff and resources

From Checkpoint, 5:08 pm on 29 September 2017

The Counties Manukau District Health Board “urgently” needs more funding, staff and resources, and patient safety is potentially being put at risk in the meantime, the DHB's chief executive says.

Doctor Gloria Johnson told Checkpoint with John Campbell the DHB – one of the largest in the country – did not have enough money, staff or resources.

Facilities are run-down, and there is not enough room in the budget for new facilities which are desperately needed to meet the demand of a fast-growing population.

“We actually need more nurses and doctors, and more physios and so on and so forth. We need more people who can directly look after sick people … it’s very concerning.”

There was “incredible escalation” in acute demand and for clinical services, and the DHB could not keep up with that demand.

When asked if it was short of funds, Dr Johnson emphatically replied “yes we are”.

It had a $12 million deficit in the last financial year and is projecting a $20 million deficit for the 2017/18 year. While it needed more staff, it has had to ask staff to consider leaving so it can put more rsources into frontline services as part of its “major savings plan”.

“We’ve certainly got to be able to figure out a way of being able to fund an expansion of our clinical workforce, and we’re doing that at a time when we are actually in deficit.”

Counties Manukau DHB, which operates across South Auckland including Middlemore Hospital, says its population has grown quickly in recent years and funding does not reflect that growth.

Middlemore Hospital

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

“We need to have funding that takes into account of how quickly Auckland is growing,” she said.

“This is a problem for the whole of metropolitan Auckland, not just for Counties, and we think the major driver of it is the increase in population in Auckland.”

The Ministry of Health uses a population-based model for funding New Zealand’s 20 district health boards. It is based on the census, which does not truly represent South Auckland’s population, Dr Johnson told Checkpoint.

A survey of nurses at the DHB found 93 percent believed patient safety was at risk due to a lack of staff, and Dr Johnson said medical staff had expressed the same views.

“They were really concerned about the impact, the potential impact on patient care. And what people tell us is they still, obviously, practice as safely as they possibly can, but it’s really stressful not only working really hard, but being aware of the fact that that might be having an impact on the quality of the job that you’re doing as well.”