David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Pressure leads to health cut predictions

Clinical services manager Fionnagh Dougan. Photo / Janna Dixon
Clinical services manager Fionnagh Dougan. Photo / Janna Dixon

Pressure on health spending has boiled over into a social media "soap opera" with the husband of a senior health manager publicly predicting cuts to services at our largest hospitals.

The claim came as regional health board staff brace for job losses among nursing staff after a leaked memo and bosses acknowledging pressure on debt levels.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation chief executive Geoff Annals said health cash was so tight it was cutting into safety margins. "It gets to the point where it becomes completely dangerous - where it becomes a case of permanent harm or even death."

A leaked memo at Hawke's Bay District Health Board said 35 nursing jobs were going. Nurses in the Bay of Plenty said they were also facing cuts of about $10m although chairwoman Sally Webb said there would be no cuts to services.

Health Minister Tony Ryall yesterday said health boards would receive more money than ever this year.

He also said there were more staff working at the health boards - although conceded the amount of work to be done continued to grow. "We are continuing to increase the budget and increase the services."

At Auckland District Health Board, where staff are currently preparing next year's budget, funding pressure spilled into social media.

Hamish Wanhill, the husband of clinical services manager Fionnagh Dougan, took to Twitter to state managers would be "fired if fail to save $60m" in an "impossible budget".

He asked if the Ministry of Health had "lost touch with reality"and said the only option was to "cut services".

The comments were taken off Twitter 30 minutes after being posted. Wanhill has since sent a message of apology to his wife's boss, departing chief executive Garry Smith.

He wrote: "I would like to sincerely apologise for my foolish actions, in which I made inaccurate comments regarding ADHB."

In a written statement, Smith said funding had increased while "the demand for services increases exponentially".

He said managers needed to find "new and innovative ways of delivering our services and efficiencies" to make sure the board could still provide all the services it did with the money it was given.

Chairman Lester Levy described the Twitter incident as a "soap opera". "These service cuts are categorically not on the agenda."

Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague said dollar amounts might have increased but inflation and increased need in the community meant the actual funding had gone down. additional reporting

Cherie Howie

- Herald on Sunday

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