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Waiwhetu Medical Clinic - Speech Annette King

Opening Ceremony

Waiwhetu Medical Clinic

Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Meeting The Needs Of The Community



Rau rangatira mä, tenä koutou, tënä tatou katoa

Thank you for your invitation to speak today in celebration of the opening of the Waiwhetu Medical Clinic, a facility well placed to deliver services and health care to meet the needs of the community it serves.

I really enjoy opportunities like these when I can meet community representatives and health workers who are dedicated and committed to working together to support patients, and to deliver a first class service.

I am especially pleased with the level of co-operation and consultation that has gone into developing this primary care facility so that it can better meet the needs of the community.

I also admire the way in which the strong Mäori community and health workers have all worked together to make Waiwhetu Medical Clinic happen.

This is a tribute to the iwi, Te Runanganui o Taranaki Whänui ki te Upoko o Te Ika, the community here at Waiwhetu and all those who have contributed their time. It is this kind of initiative and co-operation that I believe will contribute to providing a better public health system in New Zealand.

Te Runanganui has been developing a strong Maori health clinic network in the Hutt Valley for many years, of course. Today's opening marks a culmination of all those efforts, following last year's agreement with the Health Funding Authority that a comprehensive whanau health centre should be established

I say today marks a culmination, but it is only one culmination, of course. I am sure the clinic will advance from strength to strength, and the changes the Government is proposing to the New Zealand health system will make this sort of community model of health care all the more strategically important.

Many of you here will already know, of course, the broad outline of the way we plan to improve the health of New Zealanders.

I have already made a number of announcements about the plan and timetable the Government has adopted to implement improvements in the public health system.

These announcements talked about some of the structural changes, particularly the integration of the Health Funding Authority into the Ministry of Health, and the creation, by the end of next year, of elected district health boards.

But I also said that the structural changes are secondary in importance to the Government’s commitment to a health strategy that improves the health of New Zealanders. I want to re-emphasise that today.

We want to meet the needs of local communities, through increased community involvement. We want to ensure more effective use of our health care resources. We want to reduce the health disparities between different groups in our society. Those goals are at the basis of the sector changes.

There will be extensive consultation with the sector on the proposed changes. Your views will be heard and considered, and it is really important you provide me with those views. The new public health system will be one that is owned once again by New Zealanders. You can contribute to that sense of ownership by helping me make decisions on the system's design.

I mentioned health disparities just before. It is our responsibility as the Government to promote better health for all New Zealanders and address the obvious and ongoing disparities that have widened in recent years. Many of those disparities are occurring with Maori and Pacific people. They need to be addressed, and they will be addressed.

I have signalled the Government’s intention to move away from competitive models of health care provision and rebuild the system along non-commercial lines, encouraging both a collaborative and accountable culture, the sort of culture that has given birth to this clinic.

Some commentators have been focusing on the change aspects. But we are not embarking on change for change’s sake. We will not touch aspects of the system that have proved effective and are contributing towards better health in the community.

Health has been a political football and we will not continue to play the game. We acknowledge there have been some changes for the better in recent years, particularly some initiatives through Maori providers. We want to maintain those initiatives, build on them, and give the providers a greater sense of long-term certainty.

The Government intends to promote that greater long-term certainty, for New Zealanders generally, through the New Zealand Health Strategy that is being developed.

The New Zealand Health Strategy will be a flexible document, capable of being adjusted to meet changing needs, but it will provide the framework for the goals and targets we are setting in terms of our major goal ---- improving the health of New Zealanders.

The strategy will provide the framework to reduce disparities in health care and create a healthier country.

I have no doubt that the people who can provide the most help in developing the New Zealand Health Strategy are the people who know the public health system best, the people who actually work in the sector.

I am looking to the creativity, knowledge, and experience of people like the health professionals and members of the community here today to help create a public health system that New Zealanders can trust and have pride in.

You will hear a lot more from me on the New Zealand Health Strategy in the next few months.

We want to develop a system that truly promotes population health and preventive measures - so that real and consistent health gains can occur. We want to provide a national policy and accountability framework that will allow district health boards some flexibility to provide and/or fund services for their communities.

The boards will be established in a fairly regulated environment to start with, but I hope this environment can be relaxed reasonably quickly as they become more experienced and capable. Within the board structure we will put in place regulatory and accountability arrangements to ensure they work closely with Maori to protect health gains and improvements in service delivery where they have been made.

To conclude, I wish you all the very best in delivering a high quality, innovative health service for the Hutt Valley area. I am sure the service provided here will strive to reach the highest standards, and will deliver to your community the sort of gains in health status we want to see happening all round the country. Thank you again for inviting me.

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