Board hopes to break even

By Melissa Nightingale

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The Whanganui District Health Board is forecasting a half million dollar deficit this financial year - but general manager Brian Walden says there is still a chance to break even by June.

The WDHB achieved a break even budget last year for the first time in six or seven years, Mr Walden said, so the budget was this year again set for break even.

However at this stage it was looking as though there would be a $498,000 deficit.

"We're meant to produce a zero result at the end of the [financial] year so that our expenses equal our revenue," Mr Walden said.

"The history of this district health board has been, for some time, deficits. Not huge deficits in the scale of our total revenue, but still deficits of probably one to two million."

He said the WDHB's revenue was about $240 million.

The forecast deficit for this year was not particularly large compared to other deficits, he said.

"The reason that we're forecasting that at this stage is that the amount of patients going out to other district health boards for care is greater than what we have allowed for in our budget."

Patients would go elsewhere for care when WDHB did not provide services for them, Mr Walden said.

Another reason for the forecasted deficit was the "growth in aged care", which fluctuated year to year and could be hard to predict, he said.

As well, in some areas the WDHB experienced increases in demand which are not catered for in the budget.

"The benefit side is more patients are getting care, but from a fiscal point of view we need to achieve this break even, and the board is certainly looked at by the Ministry [of Health] to ensure that we do work to achieve a break even."

Mr Walden said WDHB had made "some good gains" with ACC revenue.

"We haven't given up on achieving break even at the end of this year. Remembering the figures we're talking about is a forecast. The figures could moderate, especially across the summer period. So the forecast will change as we go forward."

Mr Walden said management wanted to signal to the board that a deficit was forecast, even if there was a chance there might not be one.

"There's no good simply announcing we're not going to break even with only two months to go," he said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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