Western health working smarter

THE WESTERN NSW Local Health District (LHD) plans to "work smarter" this year after being helped out of a $19 million financial hole by NSW Health.

Five priorities in the LHD's new strategic health services plan launched yesterday included "being financially responsible".

LHD chief executive Scott McLachlan was candid when asked about debt after the morning event at Molong.He told of a potential $45 million overrun being pulled back to $19 million last financial year "without changing or closing any services".

Mr McLachlan said NSW Health had helped the LHD move forward into the current financial year.

"It's not a debt that we've had to carry forward," he said.

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"They've given us assistance to make sure we're still paying our creditors on time, which we are, and make sure we don't have other financial difficulties while we find solutions."

Mr McLachlan said services were being reviewed and staff engaged on ways of staying within the LHD's budget of about $750 million.

Reducing reliance on costly locums was already in play with Dubbo acquiring "17 new specialist positions in the past six months".

The strategic plan will guide the planning, funding and provision of public health services for Western NSW until 2016.

Integration of services so "patients experience a smooth journey" is the number one priority, with Mr McLachlan pointing to "co-ordinated and well-organised care" provided by medical and allied health professionals working out of HealthOne facilities in smaller communities like Molong.

In Dubbo a "great opportunity" for integration of services for 5000 Aboriginal residents was being explored at monthly talks between the LHD, Western NSW Medicare Local and proponents of a permanent Aboriginal medical service.

"So regardless of whether they present to emergency or a GP, we can co-ordinate their care, particularly for people with chronic disease," Mr McLachlan said.

The need to "close the gap" for Aboriginal service and health outcomes is one of the strategic health services plan priorities.

Mr McLachlan also advocated yesterday against "unnecessary duplication of services" in the LHD's 37 hospitals.

"A lot of the time other health providers can do it better than us," he said.

The chief executive said the LHD and Western NSW Medicare Local were working well together, citing their collaboration in the successful Connecting Care program that's reducing presentations to hospitals of people with chronic diseases such as diabetes.

"We're quite excited about rolling out that program more broadly," he said.

Mr McLachlan said the LHD and the Western NSW Medicare Local had "developed a really positive relationship with funding opportunities coming in all the time".

"The next challenge is to look at every town and make sure things are as well organised as they can be," he said.

Across the next six months the LHD would "sit down with communities" and learn what could be done better.

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