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DHB hospitals tracking ahead of planned deficits

District Health Board hospitals tracking ahead of planned deficits

Most of the country's 21 district health boards (DHBs) hospital arms have reported better than planned financial results for the third quarter and the nine months to the end of March, the Ministry of Health said today.

The consolidated results for DHBs show total net deficits of about $127 million for the year to date at March 2003, an improvement on plan of about $5 million. Thirteen of the 21 DHBs showed improved performances to plan for the nine months so far, and 14 of the 21 showed improved performances for the March quarter in their hospital arms.

The combined DHB March quarter deficit is $30 million for hospital arm activities, a $13 million improvement on planned hospital arm deficits.

Ministry spokesman John Hazeldine said four of the DHBs' hospital arms performed particularly well in the three months to March -- Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Lakes and Waitemata each showed significantly improved results and were collectively $14 million ahead of target for this quarter.

Auckland DHB had the best quarterly results, improving its hospital arm performance by $8.9 million and halving its planned deficit for the quarter.

Bay of Plenty DHB was the next best performer, reducing its projected hospital arm deficit by $3.1 million.

``These latest figures are encouraging signs for the health sector,'' Mr Hazeldine said.

``We want DHBs to be deficit free and we're working with boards to achieve this. Ultimately this is the responsibility of DHBs, and it's pleasing to see their hard work coming up with such positive results. It's interesting to note that March quarter surpluses were planned by only three DHBs and yet achieved by five. ''

The two Wellington regional DHBs -- Capital & Coast and Hutt -- had the only deficit free hospital arms for the nine months in the year to date. Capital & Coast improved by $4.5 million over a planned deficit of $1 million. Hutt improved $758,000 on its planned deficit.

Mr Hazeldine said while 10 DHBs had improved on their planned hospital arm deficits for the nine months to date, the combined deficit total so far for 2002/03 was $4 million more than planned.

The March quarter hospital arm deficits of $30 million build on deficits of $30 million for the September quarter and $60 million for the December quarter.

``When we look at the combined projected DHB deficit of $188 million for 2002/03, it's obvious that there is still a lot more work to be done,'' Mr Hazeldine said.

``However, I'm confident that the work DHBs are doing is taking us in the right direction.''

Mr Hazeldine said, while the year to date position of district health boards is positive, the sector operates at close to breakeven and relatively small changes in circumstances, such as an unexpected increase in acute presentations to hospital, over the final quarter could threaten this positive trend.

Background "Hospital arm" refers to the business of providing the DHB's hospital and community health services.

"Consolidated" DHB operations covers the hospital arm, governance of the DHB board and the funding of health activities not provided directly by the DHB's hospital and community health services (eg DHB funding of GP services).

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