From the editor May 2021

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We are delighted to feature additional comment in this issue on the subject of the special commissioners newly appointed by central government to replace the former Tauranga City Council.

At the moment, the commissioners are wrestling with coming up with a Long Term Plan, which will almost inevitably see rates rise in the city.

It remains to be seen how this will be greeted by the population. But it seems to have been welcomed by a large percentage of the business community, who feel Tauranga has failed to deliver on its promise as one of the country’s largest-growing cities.

And who have welcomed the commissioners stated transparency in dealing with the task ahead of them. However, there is some skepticism in the community that the commissioners will complete their mandate in time for the next election cycle as they have been proclaiming.

Read more | Commissioners front up to Tauranga challenge
Read more | Business operators optimistic on commissioners’ appointment
Read more | Commissioners get straight down to business

Meanwhile, one of the most staggering changes seen in New Zealand has been unveiled by the Labour Government with its recent decision to totally revamp the old system of District Health Boards.

Minister of Health Andrew Little recently announced the sweeping changes, stating that the 20 district health boards will be replaced by a single national agency called Health New Zealand.

In addition, a Māori Health Authority will be established, and the government is promising better access to care no matter where you live.

The shakeup, which went beyond the Government’s original recommendations, represents a fundamental change to the way New Zealanders receive health care.

We need to see the shortage of doctors, nurses, midwives, health psychologists, mental health workers and other critical workers addressed and above all we need to improve access to healthcare for Ma_ori, Pacific and others with health disparities.”
– Dr Gregor Coster

Opinions are mixed as to how well all this will work out in practice. Former West Coast DHB chairperson Dr Gregor Coster told Morning Report he didn’t have any concerns about the changes, noting only his concerns that we need to see the funding for healthcare addressed.

“We need to see the shortage of doctors, nurses, midwives, health psychologists, mental health workers and other critical workers addressed and above all we need to improve access to healthcare for Māori, Pacific and others with health disparities,” he said.

However, he did not feel the so-called “postcode lottery” would end, though he felt there could be an improvement in the way people get to access services.

Māori health researcher at the University of Auckland, Dr Jacquie Kidd, told Morning Report there were some risks in the plans.

“If we go down the track of having a Māori Health Authority that is established in the same western model as for example the new national health organisation, then it’s kind of doomed to fail to start with, because we need Māori processes.”

Bowel Cancer NZ patient advocate Sarah Derrett said it was critical the rollout of the bowel screening programme went ahead despite the restructure. There were four DHB regions that needed to enter the screening programme by the end of this year, and that programme needed to stay on track, she said.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) former executive director Ian Powell told Morning Report patients were likely to be big losers in newly announced health reforms.

“The first thing that stands out to me is there is a lack of empirical evidence to actually justify the decision to abolish [DHBs]. The argument about postcodes, for example, or access to … health services on the basis on where you live – this is not going to change that,” Powell said.

The change would not strip away bureaucracy but reposition it, he said.

Canterbury DHB former acting chairperson Tā Mark Solomon told Morning Report the news of the reform was “like an atomic bomb being dropped with no warning”.

It was true there were issues with the delivery of health services to isolated regions, he said: “But extending the size of each of the health areas won’t reduce that, it’ll increase it. Because you are having bigger areas coming together”.

The Ministry of Health had been the “biggest impediment to health delivery in this country, because of the way they have acted”, he claimed.

Predictably, the opposition National Party has called the reform reckless, saying small communities will be stripped of their voice, and health spokesperson, Shane Reti, claiming the proposed new regime will likely end up another sprawling bureaucracy.

Party leader Judith Collins has already announced that National would reverse the restructuring.

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