Costs inflated

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Hospital budget hyped by $800,000 – trust

Southland District Health Board’s running costs on Lakes District Hospital are allegedly exaggerated by $800,000-plus per year – because of a dubious “rental” charge on land and buildings.

That’s the claim this week by Wakatipu Health Trust’s Maria Cole.

Since 2000, SDHB has budgeted a “capital charge” at LDH. In the past four years alone, more than $3 million has been included in LDH costings.

The charge is an imaginary interest cost imposed by the Ministry of Health on DHBs to represent the true cost of using Crown-owned assets, particularly land and buildings.

On SDHB’s budget of $3.2 million for running LDH in the June 30, 2008 year, this charge amounted to $758,166 – 24 per cent of running costs.

According to SDHB documents, the budgeted LDH capital charge for 2009 was $839,250.

If Cole’s correct and the charge shouldn’t be imposed, SDHB would have little excuse not to put the money where it’s needed most – upgrading healthcare at the hospital.

Cole claims the capital charge is invalid because LDH land has been in public ownership since 1864 and buildings were partially paid for by community fundraising.

Moreover, she says, former Health Minister Annette King said in 2000 that any investment in hospitals which pre-dated their transfer to a DHB would be “fully funded” – only capital costs spent after 2000 would be charged for.

“These charges have no moral foundation in New Zealand society,” Cole says.

“What additional services could the local hospital have provided with this money? We could have modern-equipped maternity services, we could have bought three CT-scanners for that money, we could have built a care facility for the elderly.

“How much anguish has this cost families in Queenstown?”

Cole’s trust has written to current Health Minister Tony Ryall, urging him to investigate the LDH charge.

 Let’s stop this nonsense

Queenstown doctors won’t help midwives with birthing emergencies, according to prominent local GP Hans Raetz – because it’s unworkable.

Indirectly quoted in Dr Lynda Exton’s 2008 book The Baby Business (left), Raetz says Southland District Health Board asked GPs to consider running a back-up service to help out where necessary – but Raetz says it wouldn’t work.

“Part of the problem was that there would be only a small number of occasions requiring involvement, and the doctors would face difficulties if they were involved only sporadically,” the book says.

Only 16 per cent of the Wakatipu’s 225 born in 2006 were actually delivered locally.

Also in the book, former Queenstown obstetrician Dr Don Simmers says: “It’s just crazy providing a service that is midwifery only, where babies are being born two hours’ drive from a base hospital.

“It’s high time NZ corrected this nonsense of having midwifery-only obstetrics.”

Exton ominously says: “Queenstown’s problems remain unresolved.”