CHF signals further ‘choppy waters’

Ray Anton

Clutha Health First (CHF) has signalled further ‘‘choppy waters’’ ahead as it prepares for its annual meeting next Thursday.

Chief executive Ray Anton, who retires at the end of this year, said the past year’s challenges showed no sign of abating as the Balclutha facility looked ahead in its annual report.

In the report, prepared by Mr Anton, Clutha Community Health Company chairman Bill Thomson and Clutha Health Inc chairman Hamish Anderson, the officials highlight a successful financial performance despite the challenges of Covid-19 and health reforms.

CHF recorded a surplus for the year of $812,511, largely as a result of one-off receipts from Covid-related activities, ACC arrears and a Southern District Health Board reimbursement for creating an isolation room.

Mr Anton said the funds would be placed in reserve to help weather future risks, as the facility faced ‘‘choppy waters ahead’’.

‘‘It’s certainly been a challenging year, as we’ve wrestled with staff shortages, Covid activities and health reforms bringing us under new health authority Te Whatu Ora [Health NZ].

‘‘It’s still proving difficult to find doctors and nurse practitioners, partly as a result of immigration restrictions, which have been a disaster from our point of view.

‘‘Despite all this, however, our team have been champions in stepping up under those challenges, and we and the community thank them for their service.’’

In the report, officials said the full ramifications of the health reforms were yet to unfold.

‘‘This significant shift has and will continue to have a major impact on our organisation. We are at the early stage of these reforms and the full impact will become clear in the first couple of years.

‘‘One area of significant concern is current national pay equity negotiations and how pay parity for our staff will be achieved. We are also concerned that Te Whatu Ora Health NZ is not prepared to give us a commitment to pass on funding for pay parity for nationally negotiated pay equity agreements, that are only available for their own staff.’’

There were also positive developments, however.

‘‘We acknowledge the recent appointment of Peter Williamson to the board of Clutha Health First to represent Maori needs and expectations.

‘‘[Although] the appointment of clinical staff to vacancies has been a challenge in the last year, we are also pleased that we recently appointed Dr Cassie Mullen from the USA as a new medical officer for our inpatient ward [and] are expecting a GP appointment to be finalised early in the new year.’’

Mr Anton said he would conclude his 21 years at the facility in mid-December. He will be replaced by Sharon Mason, who has been Buller District Council chief executive since November 2018.

The public is invited to attend Clutha Health Inc’s annual meeting at Balclutha’s Rosebank Lodge, at 7pm on November 17.