WDHB acknowledges mixed results for 2015/16 Quarter One national health targets

24 November 2015

Following a busy winter, it’s to the credit of Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) staff that they met the Ministry of Health’s 95 percent target for Shorter Stays in Emergency Departments, says WDHB chief executive Julie Patterson.
“I couldn’t feel more proud of them,” Mrs Patterson said. “To achieve this result required staff right across the hospital working as a team during what was a particularly demanding winter.”
Mrs Patterson said not so pleasing was seeing the WDHB score 44 percent for the 85 percent Faster Cancer Treatment target which requires patients to receive their first cancer treatment within 62 days of being referred with a high suspicion of cancer. “This means that four or five Whanganui patients a month are not receiving treatment as quickly as we would want,” Mrs Patterson said.
“In trying to understand the reasons for this, we have found that due to the poor health of our community and our large population of elderly people, a lot of our patients have existing health problems which need to be addressed prior to starting their cancer treatment. And further patients may also require additional investigations before treatment can be decided.
“Delays are also caused when patients need to be referred to another DHB for specialist investigations and/or treatment. As a smaller DHB we have to lift our efforts in ensuring a timely process to lessen the disadvantage that we face by the extra steps required to send people to tertiary services, and the fact we have less private services available to those who may want to take that route.
“The WDHB acknowledges the main contributor to our disappointing result is that Whanganui and MidCentral DHBs have not yet succeeded in improving the provision of the urology services for Whanganui patients. We’re working to get on top of this problem. We know this has caused delays in treatment for some urology patients.
“Led by our cancer nurse coordinator, we now have a process which provides us with an in-depth story around every patient’s journey. These stories help us identify where improvement is needed. We had delays in accessing investigations for breast cancer diagnosis. But once we were aware of this, improvements were put in place and a recent review showed us that all patients with breast cancer were treated within the 62-day target.
“It is pleasing that Whanganui’s general practitioners and medical specialists are being very vigilant in raising the flag around high suspicions of all cancers. This ensures patients who need access to faster cancer treatment get it, wherever possible.”
The other disappointing results were 91 percent for the 95 percent Increased Immunisation target and 87 percent for the 90 percent primary health Better help for Smokers to Quit  target
“Despite our hard work, the WDHB continues to struggle to meet the immunisation target due to a small number of families who choose not to immunise their children or commence immunisations too late to be safely completed within the eight-month target,” WDHB child and youth portfolio manager Jon Buchan said.
“Whanganui’s health professionals work extremely hard to do everything practically possible to immunise Whanganui’s children from preventable diseases and they will continue to do so.”
WRHN chief executive Judith McDonald was also disappointed that the Whanganui Regional Health Network (WRHN) failed to reach the Better Help for Smokers to Quit  target for Primary Health Organisations. (See the Ministry of Health website for hospital target results).
“However, the decrease in our performance this quarter was mainly due to a change in the way the target is being measured. I’m confident we will achieve the 90 percent target again soon. I know our workforce will be doing all they can to make sure we do,” Mrs MacDonald said.
On a positive note, Mrs Patterson was delighted to see the WDHB achieve 123 percent for Improved Access to Elective Surgery and 92 percent for the More Heart and Diabetes Checks which had been sitting at 91 percent for the last five quarters.
“We do have disappointments from time to time but I take comfort from knowing that our staff work extremely hard to achieve all six targets and that overall, we do offer a wonderful health service for the community we serve.”

Click here for the full results table