Health Minister Andrew Little via Getty
Health Minister Andrew Little via Getty

Peter Williams: No more District Health Boards

Peter Williams 21/04/2021

OPINION: Today, major reforms in the public health system were announced.

No more District Health Boards. They will be replaced by a single national operating agency, Health New Zealand which will run all the country’s public hospitals.

There will be a separate Maori Health Authority, with the power to commission health services just for Maori - mainly from the public system, but presumably from private hospitals too.

There will be a new Public Health agency, signalling a shift in government health priorities towards prevention.

It is the biggest shakeup of the public health system in the country’s history. It is typical Labour Party philosophy.

No more locally governed health services. It’s all about central control.

The big questions remain. Will the new system improve access to specialist care? Will it shorten waiting lists? Will it reduce the apparent inequities between Maori and non-Maori? We won’t know the answers to these questions for some time but I imagine in time the answer will be no.

Here’s what I think, after a very brief reading of the reports. I’m prepared to give the idea of Health New Zealand a go. For the first time all the country’s hospitals will be run by one organisation. So if you have a serious issue and you live in Invercargill and the most appropriate surgeon for you is in Auckland, you will get that service in Auckland and the taxpayer will pay for you and a support person to go there to have the treatment. It should be the end of the postcode lottery.

Are you sad to see the end of your DHB?

But do you like the idea of a truly national health system so that - in theory anyway - you’ll have as much access to top level health care if you live in downtown Auckland or in deepest South Westland?

Is the Maori Health Authority an idea whose time has come to improve Maori Health outcomes, or should a truly national health system be able to cater adequately for this anyway?

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