Call for more detail of health reforms

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A major shakeup in the health sector is on its way, but for Central Otago hospitals Dunstan and Maniototo, more details are needed.

Reforms announced recently by the Government will see district health boards scrapped in favour of one national organisation.

A new Maori Health Authority will be created, as well as a new Public Health Agency, plus a strengthened Ministry of Health will monitor performance and advise Government.

Dunstan Hospital in Clyde is run by not-for-profit charity Central Otago Health Services with funding primarily coming from the Southern District Health Board.

Chief executive Dr Kathryn de Luc said there was good potential and lots of opportunity in the reforms.

If replacing all district health boards with one national organisation achieved a more balanced health system that would be a good result.

She was ‘‘a little concerned’’ that rural healthcare was not mentioned as much as it could have been in the announcements, she said.

‘‘But if you are really going to do away with the ‘postcode lottery’ for access to services then that should in part tackle rural iniquities that we are experiencing.’’

The move to strengthening primary and community care services was ‘‘absolutely the right way to go’’.

She was supportive of catching people at the top of the cliff rather than at the bottom.

There was an opportunity to cut down on bureaucracy by having a central organisation, in particular when it came to information technology, Dr de Luc said.

However, centralisation had to be balanced with localism.

‘‘You can’t do one without the other — the two are linked.’’

This fed well into the idea of locality networks, which were advisory networks made up of health professionals and consumers.

They enabled the ability to develop both primary healthcare and community services that were needed for the local population.

Dr de Luc strongly supported the idea of a new Maori Health Authority which would help address the iniquities faced by Maori.

This was particularly relevant in a rural environment, ‘‘so I am generally supportive’’.
She was very interested to see the details of how the reforms would play out.

‘‘There is not much detail at this point, so I look forward to seeing more detail come out.’’

Maniototo Hospital was run by not-for-profit charity Maniototo Health Services.

General manager Geoff Foster said it was business as usual and he had no thoughts at present on the merger of district health boards.

Moves to focus on primary and community services had already been taking place for some time, Mr Foster said.

‘‘We are always looking to see how we fit best with what is required.’’

Equity in the delivery of services for rural areas was something he hoped would be part of the reforms, Mr Foster said.

Health Minister Andrew Little said the reforms heralded a change in focus for the health system by treating people before they get sick.

‘‘So they don’t need to go to hospital, thereby taking the pressure off hospitals,” he said.
The emphasis would be on primary and community healthcare.

“The reforms will mean that for the first time, we will have a truly national health system, and the kind of treatment people get will no longer be determined by where they live,” Mr Little said.