The Bay of Plenty District Health Board's deficit has increased by $6 million in a single month.

The latest district health board (DHB) financial results, for the 11 months to May, were released today by the Ministry of Health.

It shows the Bay of Plenty DHB with an $11 million deficit.

In the previous month's results, for the 10 months to April, it was $5 million.


The Bay of Plenty Times asked the DHB for comment about the financial results today but was told they would be commenting on Monday.

The Times has also tried to contact DHB chairwoman Sally Webb for comment.

All but one of the country's 20 DHBs are in the red, the new financial results show, with the total DHB deficit now at $423 million.

At the same time in May last year, it was $204 million.

In this year's May financial results, the Bay of Plenty DHB forecast a $15 million deficit for the end of the financial year (June 30) – a blowout from the $10.47 million deficit it submitted earlier this year, and the $12 million deficit it forecast in April's financial results.

Across all DHBs, the deficit grew by $112 million, or 36 per cent, in a single month from April to May.

The total deficit by financial year-end was now forecast to be $508 million – compared with Treasury and Ministry forecasts of $390 million just months ago.

Tauranga MP and Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges, told the Bay of Plenty Times: "This is really concerning both for us locally and also nationally. It represents staggering incompetence from a minister and Government that clearly don't understand budgets or how to manage money.


"The worry is that this means worse health for us in Tauranga as the Government neither sufficiently funds or drives the performance with measures and targets that we need."

Tauranga MP and Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges. Photo / File
Tauranga MP and Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges. Photo / File

In a statement, Minister of Health David Clark said the shortfalls were the result of years of underfunding by the previous government.

But he said the Government did not accept deficits were inevitable.

"Some DHBs manage to post small surpluses, break even or only post small deficits while maintaining services. It can be done," he said.

"DHBs have been directed to ensure they improve on their underlying deficit position in their 2019-20 planning."

The Government had put up $695 million of extra funding for DHBs in this year's Budget along with capital funding for cash-strapped boards, he said.

The 20 DHBs were given $13.98 billion in May, compared with $13.24 billion last year.

Clark has previously warned them to tighten their belts.

The Ministry noted budgets were expected to take major one-off hits for compliance with the Holidays Act and write-offs of its troubled National Oracle Solution IT system.

In its report, the Ministry also attributed the situation to personnel, service, clinical supply and infrastructure costs, and payments to other providers.

South Canterbury District Health Board was the only authority to break even.

In a letter to Bay of Plenty DHB chairwoman Sally Webb earlier this year, Clark encouraged the board "to consider appropriate activities to ensure that you reduce the projected deficits in the coming years".

Minister of Health David Clark. Photo / File
Minister of Health David Clark. Photo / File

However, the Bay of Plenty DHB also voiced concerns of its own this year.

In its 2018/19 Annual Plan, published at the end of January, the DHB said it was "extremely concerned" over its ability to deliver within the current environment of significant fiscal risk, posed by national employment settlements and service volume pressures.

Its general manager of planning and funding, Simon Everitt, told the Bay of Plenty Times in February that the region's significant growth during the past five years had resulted in pressure across all aspects of the DHB's operations, including hospital services and its community and non-governmental organisation network.

"Also contributing to this pressure is the mix of our population, with an older growing population in parts of the Western Bay along with higher needs populations in the Eastern Bay," he said at the time.

In its 2018 Annual Report and 2018/19 Annual Plan, the DHB also spoke of the impact of changing cost structures (infrastructure depreciation and interest costs, compliance costs and increasing cost of employment settlements), and the need to refocus service provision towards reducing acute demand.

It said it had to service record numbers of elective surgeries (up 797 to 12,112) and acute discharges and emergency department attendances (up 2005 to 80,693) in 2017/18.

It also ensured 94.4 per cent of emergency department patients were admitted, discharged or transferred within six hours, in an attempt to meet the DHB target of 95 per cent.

The new financial figures were published today after Clark was accused of stalling their release.

National Party health spokesman Michael Woodhouse this week accused the Minister of holding back the figures because they showed the Government was failing to rein in the deficits.

While Clark received the data on June 21, he officially refused to release it to Woodhouse last week.

The Minister told reporters he had not been aware the information had been sitting in his office for six weeks and would immediately sign it off.

- Additional reporting: Boris Jancic, NZ Herald