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Changes In The Health Sector

Re Changes in Health Sector

THE Government has agreed on a plan and timetable to implement improvements to the public health system, Health Minister Annette King said
today.

"More importantly we have also agreed to the development of a New Zealand Health Strategy, setting out our goals and targets as we strive to reduce disparities and become a healthier country," Mrs King said.

"The strategy will pick up the experience, the suggestions, the views and concerns of many of those working in and dedicated to health, as well as incorporating some of the excellent work already done in developing specific strategies. It will fix our sights firmly on improving the health of the population."

Mrs King said initial work on the strategy was being done by the Ministry of Health, and further development of the strategy, which would include the health sector's response to a discussion document on the future of primary care, would be guided by a wider health sector reference group.

The Minister said structural changes, while the subject of much comment, were secondary to the Government's commitment to a health strategy that improved the health of New Zealanders.

"The structural changes have to occur to facilitate the delivery of the health strategy, but in the end what really matters is how well the new structures do in meeting the needs of New Zealanders," Mrs King said. "We are moving fast - to refocus the sector as quickly as possible on health gain, to maintain energy and to reduce uncertainty. But we intend to minimise disruption.

"Following the recently-announced changes to the HFA board we intend to start broadening the focus of Hospital and Health Services Boards to ensure they take account of the wider health needs of their communities.


"I will be appointing additional directors to HHS boards from later this month and conveying to them the Government's expectations about the ways in which they should move toward taking responsibility for improving, promoting and protecting the health of those in their communities, especially Maori.

"By the end of the year we will have transitional District Health Boards focusing on the whole spectrum of health needs and services for their communities. They will also be responsible for setting up the structures and processes needed by District Health Boards, expected to be fully functional from the 2001 local body elections."

Mrs King said District Health Boards would have a mix of elected and appointed members and would be responsible for a wide range of services.

"We know a lot of non hospital-based providers are concerned about how this new-look health structure will work for them. But people working in primary care, in Maori health, in disability support and in mental health will not be playing second fiddle to the local hospital. While we have not yet finalised the detail of new accountability arrangements, I have every intention of continuing and enhancing health initiatives which keep New Zealanders out of hospital."

The Government anticipated District Health Boards would employ some of those working in the Health Funding Authority. Disestablishment of the HFA was planned for the end of this year.

Mrs King said a ministerial committee was being established to oversee the changes, which were being led by the Ministry of Health. The changes would be incorporated in the New Zealand Public Health Services Bill, scheduled for introduction mid-year.

"Today's announcements set out some of the detail of how we hope to implement our health policy. Development of the public health system will be firmly in the hands of those who know it best, those working in the sector. We will look for their creativity, experience and input to create a better future.

"We believe we can improve the health of the community, take a simpler approach to funding, provide a community focus in the way services and organised and allow local input into decision-making about local services."

For more information, contact John Harvey (04) 471 9305.

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