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Southern DHB Looking for Answers in Wrong Places


Southern DHB Looking for Answers in Wrong Places

“The Southern District Health Board (SDHB) is looking in the wrong places for help to solve its problems, when the answers are right under their noses,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

The Otago Daily Times reports the Southern DHB spent $1.3 million on a wide range of external consultants in 2012-13, including more than $80,000 on advice from a US-based firm and more than $629,000 to PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

“One has to ask why the DHB is looking outwards for advice when it should be drawing on the clinical and operational expertise available within its own organisation,” says Mr Powell. “Senior doctors and other clinical staff are used to solving problems every day and could contribute much of value if resourced to engage.”

“They are certainly more in touch with the needs of patients in their communities and the realities of providing health care for Southern DHB than an American consulting firm. This expenditure on expensive external consultants is really unnecessary and it’s patients and staff who will wear the brunt of the DHB’s poor decisions.”

“DHBs can already get important benchmarking and other information through their access to information about Australian and New Zealand public hospitals.”

The information about expenditure had come to light as Southern DHB continued to grapple with problems at its rundown Dunedin Hospital, including water leaks and power outages.

“There are probably a few other things the DHB could be spending $1.3 million on,” says Mr Powell.

He advised other DHBs to look first at the in-house expertise available to them to solve issues of DHB deficits and service restructuring before turning to external sources of advice.

“When we look at DHB deficits, for example, the best way to achieve cost-effectiveness in a large, integrated and very complex organisation is through process and system improvements which require the experience of senior doctors and other health professionals as natural problem-solvers.

“It’s about getting the best value for money for the DHB’s patients and the people working there, and I’m not convinced that throwing handfuls of cash at outside experts is going to achieve that.”


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