The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) has sought help from private hospitals and other DHBs in its scramble to meet elective surgery targets.
The board faced a potential $24 million Government penalty if it did not get a backlog of 3248 surgeries done by Sunday.
Time is up, but the board was unable to confirm if it had delivered.
“At this stage we are working towards achieving this,” CDHB general manager for planning and funding Carolyn Gullery said on Thursday.
A recovery plan the CDHB gave the Ministry of Health in January outlined how it would address the backlog.
It included increasing surgery hours at Christchurch Hospital and outsourcing procedures to St George’s, Southern Cross and other South Island hospitals.
However, there was limited capacity for external support, the report said.
While theatre space was available elsewhere, there was huge staff.
Many surgeons work for both the DHB and their own private business. DHB staff said there was little room for private businesses to take on additional work.
CDHB already outsources about 14 per cent of elective surgeries at an annual cost of more than $20m.
“This is a situation where we will have to do more internally with increased hours,” the report said.
The Ministry of Health expects district health boards to complete a patient’s elective surgery within four months of the procedure being approved.
The CDHB has failed to achieve the target every month since August 2016.
Gullery said there were different levels of compliance for elective surgery targets: green, yellow and red.
The board aimed for yellow status, which allowed a “buffer” of 36 patients (one per cent) waiting longer than four months, Gullery said.
Another month of non-compliance, or red status, would spell a possible $24m financial penalty.
Any penalty for failure to deliver on elective surgeries would add to the CDHB’s challenging financial position. Last week the Ministry signed off the board’s 2016-2017 annual plan with a $38.5m deficit.
A Ministry spokeswoman said in March a decision on the penalty was “pushed out by months to allow time for a satisfactory resolution to be reached”.
An increase in acute and elective surgeries for patients from other South Island DHBs, two strikes by junior doctors and the Kaikoura earthquake contributed to the long period of CDHB non-compliance, the January recovery plan said.
“CDHB has handled more volume that planned for, supported the whole of the South Island in its delivery of electives (otherwise they too would have been red), has weathered through a very large industrial action and another major natural disaster … all while living and working in the largest building site in New Zealand.”