Northern NSW Health Budget Heralds Opportunities and Challenges

Northern NSW Health Budget Heralds Opportunities and Challenges
The 2013/14 Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) Budget delivers important extra funding but the next twelve months will present challenges.

Giving an overview of the 2013/14 Expenses Budget, which totals $632M, some $23M higher than in 2012/13, the Chair of the NNSW LHD Board, Dr Brian Pezzutti, said, “This extra funding will cover higher staff wages of around 2.5 per cent and inflation-induced increases in the cost of various good and services, such as medications, bandages and electricity.

“Under the new funding arrangements which commenced in 2012/13, NNSW LHD has received an Activity Based Budget, which funds the NSW LHD to treat a specified number of patients. Should the NSW LHD treat more than the targeted number of patients, it does not receive any extra funding for treating the extra patients from Activity Based Funding sources. Therefore, to achieve the National Elective Surgery Targets, NNSW LHD will need to make efficiencies in other areas.”

“However, I am reassured that the financial arrangement with the Ministry of Health will improve over the coming years associated with improved transparency.”

“I am comfortable that we will meet the efficiency targets that are applied to all NSW Government agencies. In addition, the NNSW LHD will be able to retain some of the extra own source revenue raised and expenditure savings that it generates through efficiencies to fund growth in its services,” according to Dr Pezzutti.

Examples of how these extra funds will be utilised include –

  • The opening of an extra around-the-clock Intensive Care Unit bed at The Tweed Hospital
  • The opening of an Emergency Medicine Unit at Lismore Base Hospital, to help manage ED pressures
  • The appointment of a second Orthopaedic Surgeon to Grafton Base Hospital
  • Appointment of an extra five Clinical Nurse Educators and Clinical Nurse Specialists for local hospitals.

As well, NNSW LHD will receive around $3.0M under the National Dental Scheme, which will enable it to provide Dental Care to around an extra 3,500-plus clients, who would otherwise have waited longer for their care. This additional dental care is on top of the 140,000 dental treatments NNSW LHD already provides each year.

“Meeting the inevitable increases in patient demand will require NNSW LHD Hospitals to introduce and adhere to more efficient practices, in order to treat a greater number of patients within existing bed capacity,” Dr Pezzutti said.

“A key demand management strategy will be treating in the community more patients, who would previously have been admitted to hospital. This will be done through an expanded utilisation of the effective Hospital in the Home Program and by expanding Community Palliative Care Services.”

Dr Pezzutti said the Connecting Care Program will continue to be utilised by patients with chronic diseases, with earlier intervention protocols in place to ensure that early treatment is made available should their health show signs of deteriorating. This will help to reduce the “revolving door” of hospital re-admissions for these chronic patients.

“These efficiencies will be facilitated by the introduction of a variety of new programs, such as the Whole of Hospital, Rapid Response and Results Pending initiatives and a Transit Lounge at The Tweed Hospital, which is a proven way of increasing the utilisation of acute beds.

“Through introducing these efficiencies, NNSW LHD is seeking to achieve $6.3M of savings, which it will be able to retain in order to help meet the demand pressures generated by our growing and ageing population.”

Dr Pezzutti added, “While ensuring that services are still provided free of charge to Medicare eligible patients, NNSW LHD has agreed to raise extra revenue of $3.7M by better identifying Privately Insured patients, which costs will be met by the Private Health Funds. In total, NNSW LHD will need to raise $84.76 million of own source revenue to pay for the services that it will provide.

“Patients are asked to let Staff know that they are Privately Insured, so that they can be classified as such, which means that they can access the extra benefits available to Privately Insured patients and can assist NNSW LHD to raise this extra revenue.

Dr Pezzutti said, “Since January this year the Board has been considering how it would meet the challenges of implementing the 2013/14 Budget. The prime goal is to ensure that services continue to expand to meet the increasing needs of the community, while ensuring that necessary and achievable savings result from reducing inefficiencies and reviewing expenditure.

“The Board has faced some difficult choices but it recognises that such decisions are better made on an informed local basis, rather than resulting from a centralised process.”

The Board Chair said, “The 2013/14 NNSW LHD Budget does contain positive news but this year will also require some challenges to be met through careful management to optimise the delivery of high quality patient care from the available funding.”

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