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Health board projected deficit rises

The district health board has increased its expected end-of-year deficit (June 30) to $5.9 million — up from $5.5m a month ago — but it is not alone among the country’s 20 health boards in its financial plight.

Chief executive Jim Green told his board members that the 20 boards — in budgeting for the 2 percent wage increase offer previously rejected by members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) — had a collective deficit of $225m.

Mr Green said the independent panel working with health boards and the NZNO were meeting on Thursday.

Any decision reached at the meeting would have to go to NZNO members.

Any increased wage settlement would have a “follow-on effect’’ for health boards, including with allied health staff (a broad range of health professionals who are not doctors, dentists or nurses.)

Voting is open for the 27,000 members of NZNO on whether they should strike for two days in July, if the independent panel cannot find a solution between the two parties.

Mr Green said contingency plans were in place should a strike occur.

A group of nurses would be on call in event of “an event” and other staff would redeploy.

Elective surgery would be cancelled.

‘‘We have managed a strike before.

‘‘It is unpleasant for all concerned.”

Financial controller Craig Green said the increased deficit projection was due to costs of outsourced medical staff.

The deficit at the end of March was $3,645,000.

Mr Green said only four boards, including Hauora Tairawhiti, had budgeted to break even or better.

The Ministry of Health supposedly had a policy of “no, no, no” to any health board budget that did not have a break- even target, “but it didn’t transpire”.

Last month Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said only two health boards were not in deficit.

The Government could not fund pay increases for nurses.

“That I can’t do,” she said.

“The health boards need to be able to negotiate this as entities without me inserting myself into it.”