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Canterbury DHB Bailout Welcome But Scars Run Deep

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists is welcoming a government bailout for the Canterbury District Health Board but says it’s a shame it has taken an unprecedented leadership crisis and protest action by staff to force action.

The DHB is to be given an equity injection of $180 million which will effectively write off its deficit.

ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton says it’s a relief to finally see the Health Minister Chris Hipkins acknowledging the financial difficulties the DHB has been facing.

She says investment in health must be determined by need not number crunching, and DHBs should not have to push austerity to reduce debt.

Many services at CDHB are struggling with a lack of specialists and rising demand, such as oncology and mental health.

“While the bailout is a significant step, the DHB is struggling to cope with the number of patients in Canterbury needing treatment. We also remain concerned about whether the Hagley Building will be fully staffed and operational when it opens,” says Sarah Dalton.

“The scars of the past few months run deep. What Canterbury needs now is a new governance team which is people-focussed and will listen to the community and the voice of clinical leaders”.

ASMS is also warning the crisis at Canterbury DHB is in many ways a cautionary tale and there is a risk without more overall bottom-line funding, other DHBs could go down the same path.

Sarah Dalton says the Southern District Health Board is an example. It is trying to build a new hospital in Dunedin, while battling increasing demand for services, and a hospital in Invercargill which is cramped and in desperate need of a rebuild. Another example is Northland which is still waiting for the go-ahead on a long-overdue hospital rebuild.

“It’s highly likely their deficits will blow out further but they’ll be told they’ve had enough money and need to focus on balancing their books. The result is that people in those regions won’t get the health services they need.”

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