High-priority mental health and youth programmes will bear the brunt of belt tightening as Palmerston North Hospital scrambles to meet its budget.
Hospital management has admitted it had to put off some programmes to get out of the red, but won’t say exactly which ones.
The city’s MP Iain Lees-Galloway says the move is “devastating” to a vulnerable service and shows the “chickens have come home to roost” for underfunding.
The hospital reported a year-to-date surplus of $1.2 million in February – its first for the financial year. In January, it was more than $1m in deficit.
It managed to achieve the turnaround by making “significant savings”, some of which include pushing back health and youth programmes, but the hospital would not say what the scope or cost of these were.
Lees-Galloway said mental health services were in urgent need of attention and new programmes and approaches.
“It is devastating that the district health board is delaying the introduction of new initiatives in an area that is crying out for them.”
It was yet another example of the pressure DHBs face from underfunding. Cuts and delays were their only options left.
“There was always going to be a limited amount of time that the Government could get away with underfunding the health system.
“The chickens have come home to roost.”
The drastic measures were revealed at a recent MidCentral board meeting.
MidCentral’s surplus raised eyebrows from board members, who questioned what had changed.
The DHB’s finance and corporate services general manager Neil Wanden said they had been offset by “a lot of hard work and savings in other areas”.
“The hospital remains under a lot of pressure.”
MidCentral strategy, planning and performance general manager Craig Johnston said, in general, there were not many significant changes.
“But we have got a couple of programmes that we were scheduled to do which we have not done.”
Johnston said the programmes would be “reconsidered next year”.
Board member Diane Anderson said services should not be dropping off to meet targets.
“We are here to provide health services to the people.”
MidCentral chief executive Kathryn Cook suggested they come back to another committee meeting with a report to say what the programmes were.
However, Anderson requested a “two-sentence answer” at the meeting.
Johnston responded that they were new programmes in child and youth and “one small piece of work in mental health”.
“These are new investments that we have delayed.”
Johnston said they were looking for savings and made the deferrals in an effort to “live within our means”.
Stuff requested the scope and cost of the programmes from MidCentral, but was told that information wouldn’t be made public until a report was prepared for another committee next month.
MidCentral spokesman Dennis Geddis would not supply figures last week.