5 Jul 2014

DHB's funding below inflation - Labour

10:23 pm on 5 July 2014

The Government's underfunding is to blame for Southern District Health Board's financial woes Labour's health spokesperson has said.

The Southern DHB said on Thursday it is on track to overspend this financial year by $13.9 million, $5 million more than planned.

Ms King said the board's 1.85 percent increase in funding has not even kept pace with inflation.

"You've got to fund DHBs to be able to provide the services and cover the costs it takes to provide those services."

Ms King told Morning Report a Labour-led Government would look at increasing the health budget up to $500 million to cover cost pressures, demographic changes and new initiatives.

As a cost cutting measure by Southern DHB, patients will be told they'll be moved quickly through the board's hospital services if they have a GP's letter, as opposed to turning up at emergency departments unannounced.

Dunedin Hospital entrance.

The Southern DHB is in financial strife. Photo: RNZ

Labour associate health spokesperson David Clark said people shouldn't have to get out their chequebook to get into hospital, and this proposal will only exacerbate health inequalities.

He said the Government should significantly increase funding for DHBs.

And the union representing health professionals has warned the kind of financial woes being experienced by the Southern District Health Board could happen to any DHB.

Executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Ian Powell, said all DHBs are financially vulnerable.

"DHBs are still struggling and still at risk of getting into a bit of a panic mode. Because they never can be confident they will get to a break even point until they've got there," he said.

He said even the ones that are financially strongest struggle to break even, and the Government needs to step up and increase DHB funding.

Southern DHB chief executive Carole Heatly told the board on Thursday she had moved two executives fulltime onto cost control frozen hiring staff without her approval, restricted travel outside the region and reduced spending powers.