No pain for clincial staff in cost cuts

LARGE cost savings unrelated to the offer of redundancies to corporate staff have been identified by the Western Local Health District (WLHD) in a bid to rein in a budget blowout.

WLHD chief executive officer Scott McLachlan told the Central Western Daily a significant percentage of the $19 million in savings identified so far this financial year was due to renegotiated contracts for services and supplies to hospitals in the region.

Mr McLachlan said the WLHD was continuing to review contracts for the provision of a range of services to the WLHD that could bring even further savings.

“We are looking closely at our procurement procedures,” he said.

He said the WLHD was well on the way to auditing all of its health facilities in the region, and allayed fears of earlier reported cuts in nursing and other clinical staff when the budget blowout was first revealed.

Mr McLachlan said for the first time in years close scrutiny of the way the WLHD delivered services had meant a full review of staffing and the facilities operating within the network.

He said no decisions about staffing, particularly with smaller rural hospitals, were being made without consulting local councils, health councils and unions.

Mr McLachlan said the review, which is continuing this week in the Coolah and Dunedoo region, had revealed challenges facing staff in some hospitals.

“For example, in some of our smaller and older facilities emergency departments are located a long way from the wards and nurses are being run off their feet,” he said.

“We have to find a way of improving that situation.”

OUR SAY: WESTERN LOCAL HEALTH DISTRICT REVIEW BIG BUSINESS

A focus on the provision of out-of-hospital community care, where appropriate, is also being investigated.

“We have a team of twelve people working on the review full time,” Mr McLachlan said.

Mr McLachlan said union concerns front-line jobs would go after the announcement late last year of the cost-saving review had given way to recognition the review had to look at all aspects of the way WLHD delivered health services to the region.

He said so far 17 per cent of corporate staff had been either offered a redundancy or would not be replaced through natural attrition this financial year contributing to savings.

Setting up clinics in hospitals in smaller towns  that are taking the brunt of many non-urgent cases could also ease pressure on some emergency departments, according to Mr McLachlan.

“This has been a very productive process but it is a big task and we have had to expand the parameters of our review since we started,” Mr McLachlan said.

He said initially he believed the unions were overstating the extent of job cuts but said strong communication with unions was a key to making any changes.

“We have come at the communication issue with renewed vigour and we admit at times we should have done things differently,” he said.

In a bid to save money, the Western Local Health District has ...

Offered redundancies or are not replacing 17 per cent of corporate staff who are leaving by natural attrition.

Cut the use of locums and agency nurses in the region from 84 to 22, saving $800,000.

Renegotiated contracts, including a $2.5 million saving on the pathology contract.

Put forward a plan to set up clinics in emergency departments in smaller hospitals to deal with non-urgent cases to relieve staffing pressures.

Worked with Medicare Local, general practitioners and local councils in the consultation process.

Expanded the provision of community nurses so people can return home earlier or be treated at home.

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