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“Dhbs Risk Slowly Imploding”

Wednesday 31 March 2004

“Dhbs Risk Slowly Imploding”

“District health boards risk slowly imploding due to a combination of compromising standards of, and access to health services, an internal blame culture and increasing acrimonious and toxic industrial relations,” said Mr Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, today.

“Funding constraints are forcing many DHBs to deny patients access to health services that they badly need. The most recent example is the expected rationing of surgery, including hip operations and grommets for children with hearing difficulties, at Dunedin Hospital. The Otago DHB believes that lack of funding is responsible for this situation.”

“Different parts of the health system are increasingly blaming other parts of the system for the growing number of cracks in the system. Blame and risk shifting is becoming part of the internal culture of DHBs. Only yesterday Canterbury chairperson Syd Bradley lashed out at its managers and doctors for the DHB’s increasing deficit, forgetting that there is little managers and doctors can do about funding constraints and increased acute admissions.”

“Capping it all off is a rapidly deteriorating industrial relations environment in DHBs. Yesterday the DHBs launched a high risk aggressive strategy that included a vicious and misleading attack on senior doctors over their collective agreement negotiations while, at the same time, a breakdown in the medical laboratory workers negotiations has led to a seven day strike after Easter. The resident doctors and nurses negotiations are just around the corner. The record to date suggests that 2004 is going to be a very toxic year with the serious risk and likelihood of long term damage to the relationship between health professionals and managers that might last for some years.”

“DHBs appear to be like an out-of-control train heading in slow motion towards a major disaster. The overall direction and philosophy of the health system is much superior to the failed market experiment of the 1990s but the delivery and internal relationships are just as bad,” concluded Mr Powell.


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