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.