Sharing CEO sensible step

04/10/2008

The appointment of a single chief executive for the Otago and Southland DIstrict Health Boards is a very sensible step.

Brian Rousseau who was the Otago CEO and has been interim CEO for Southland since last year will take on the joint role which is a first for district health board management.

The chairmen of both boards say the appointment enhances the strong commitment to regional collaboration over services, but neither is suggesting the boards should amalgamate.

I think that would be a sensible aim. There would be economies of scale and it would be welcomed by the many people on the heath board borders who want to use Dunedin services but have to use Southland’s and vice versa.

Otago chair Richard Thomsom said:

The appointment did not change anything fundamentally for the boards, but would make it easier to further develop a regional focus on services.

“As Brian would say, it’s difficult to argue with yourself when you’re the CEO of both boards.”

The boards have two services in common, Southern Blood and Cancer and cardiac surgery, and several senior management staff work across both organisations.

Two of the boards’ advisory committees share membership.

Southland chairman Dennis Cairns said the boards faced the problem of catering for populations spread over a large area.

The average number of health service users over the country per square kilometre was 13.1, compared with 5.6 in Otago and 2.8 in Southland.

In an area such as Counties Manukau there could be one hospital catering for 250,000 people, but in Otago and Southland there were seven hospitals.

It’s always going to be more expensive to treat people scattered over a large area than if they’re concentrated in one place. A closer working relationship between Otago and Southland ought to ensure that less is spent on overheads leaving more for services.

The Southland Times’ report is here.


Should Medics Be Able To Strike?

10/07/2008

A damning report  on two deaths which occurred because of delays to treatment during a medical radiation technologists’ strike raises the question of whether health professionals should be able to take that sort of industrial action.

A report into a complaint against the Otago District Health Board involving a Dunedin Hospital patient whose treatment was delayed because of strikes suggested “the wrong party is in the dock”.

The report is one of two by Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson on two complaints against the board, arising out of medical radiation technologists (MRT) strikes in 2006.

It says although there is potential to breach an agreement with unions over life-preserving services, hospitals cannot allow patient safety to be jeopardised.

The reports draw attention to the risks to patients during health professionals’ strikes when clinicians are not able to carry out their usual practices, and calls for the Minister of Health to consider better protection for patients during strikes.

Strikes by any other workers may disrupt and annoy people, but those by health professionals have the potential to kill them.

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