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Plunging DHB deficits prove the pie is too small

Plunging DHB deficits prove the pie is too small

Reports that DHB deficits are set to plunge even further this year are yet more proof that underfunding is bringing hospitals to their knees, says the new Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Sarah Dalton.

A New Zealand Herald report - “Sheer Incompetence: DHBs continue financial nosedive” - says new figures from the Ministry of Health show the financial situation for DHBs is continuing to deteriorate and the overall DHB deficit is expected to rise to up to $534 million by June this year. Earlier forecasts predicted $508 million.

Sarah Dalton says the fact DHBs are carrying such large amounts of debt is unsustainable and symptomatic of years of underfunding.

“DHBs are dealing with a significant rise in acute demand which is higher than both population growth and funding increases, coupled with almost nine straight years of underfunding of public hospitals”.

“Basically they’re continuing to have to do way more with way less,” she says.

Post-budget analysis last year by the CTU and ASMS found that DHBs received an estimated $139 million less than needed for anticipated increased costs and population changes.

It also found that compared with the previous year health spending as a proportion of the economy continued to fall well short of what is needed and in 2019/20 was an estimated $134 million behind what is required just to stand still.

Sarah Dalton says “we are seeing hospitals running under enormous pressure and services stretched beyond their limit, including a shortfall of more than 1000 hospital specialists around the country”.

“Our public health system is too important to be used as a political football. DHBs, patients and staff should not be carrying the can for long-term failures to invest in health”.


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