Health Budget Blow-Outs Relegated Firmly to Past; District Acting Chief Executive Believes Purse Strings Can Be Tightened

Article excerpt

Byline: Adam Wratten adam.wratten@capnews.com.au

CENTRAL Queensland health district's financial performance has deteriorated dramatically in the past five years, culminating in a 2008 blow out of more than $25 million.

However, the district's acting CEO Roxanne Ramsey yesterday said she was confident the purse strings could be reined in and savings made if the recommendations of a "warts-and-all report" were adopted.

Findings from the comprehensive and independent Review of Central Queensland Health Service District, conducted by KPMG (consultants), were released yesterday.

Key criticisms included budget blowouts, a culture resistant to change, the proper credentialing of doctors and a lack of clarity in reporting relationships within the organisational structure.

Ms Ramsay said the eight-month review, commissioned in light of the amalgamation of four health districts, would guide the refinement of service delivery and help provide better health care for patients.

Central Queensland's health delivery is a huge operation, costing about $250m to deliver and each year handling about 42,000 hospital admissions.

Industry sources yesterday said while a number of issues were identified in the report, services had improved greatly in recent years.

The report makes 54 recommendations and concentrates on ways to improve communication channels.

While the report highlighted positive significant progress in some areas, such as developing clinical services through the recruitment of permanent senior medical officers, areas of concern were identified.

The financial increases relate mainly to overruns because more patients than expected were treated and this increased the associated external medical locum costs. Ms Ramsay said savings could be made.

"For example, locum doctors have been an issue and they cost a lot of money," she said.

"If we can get our recruitment processes better then we can save money there, rather than having to spend it."

She said while budgeting was an important consideration, there would be no decline in the quality, type or volume of medical services.

"Our first priority is, and always will be, the delivery of a safe and sustainable level of quality health care," Ms Ramsay said.

Health culture resists change

THE KPMG report identified a culture within the health district resistant to change and with some elements reluctant to take on responsibility for issues.

"One of the strengths identified by stakeholders during the review was the commitment of the staff and the executive," the report says. …