The health system is sick and has been ailing for a long time.
My contact with it started with my children from the mid 1980s until the mid 1990s, then my elderly parents needed help from the late 90s to early 2000s and in recent years I’ve seen too much of it because my daughter has cancer.
Almost all the health professionals treating my children and parents have been dedicated, skilled and better than competent but more than three decades ago they were overworked and that has got worse.
While I have generally been appreciative of the people working in health, I have got more and more concerned about problems with the system in which they’re working.
The government has come up with a radical prescription to treat the system’s ills includes disbanding the District Health Boards.
Electing some board members for DHBs was always Clayton’s democracy. Elections are not the best way to get the skills needed to run complex health organisations. They were answerable to the Minister, not electors, but the system allowed the government to blame DHBs for shortcomings and the shortcomings were many.
So I am not sorry to see the DHBs go but I am not confident that centralisation under the new National Health Authority is the answer, especially for those of us who live a long way from main centres.
And I am strongly opposed to two health authorities – one Maori, the other not in co-governance with the Maori authority having veto over all national health plans.
National’s health spokesman Dr Shane Reti points out:
. . . “National believes whoever has the greatest needs should receive the appropriate resources. We know Māori have the greatest inequity across health, and therefore greater needs across many health metrics.
“But we do not support a separate Māori Health Authority as it runs the risk of a fragmented two-tier system. On one hand Health Minister Andrew Little claims he’s trying to create a single, harmonious, joined-up health system and on the other he’s creating a two-tiered funding system based on race. . .
This is the wrong prescription for the ailing health system.
Maori and Pacific people are disproportionately represented in poorer health statistics but the focus for improving that should be at the primary health care and community level. It doesn’t need a whole new, expensive bureaucracy.
The government must also recognise that the health system is just one piece in the health and wellbeing puzzle. If it’s not to continue getting worse, the government must address the causes of preventable ill-health including benefit dependency, educational failure and inadequate housing.