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“Working Together” Conference, Auckland

15 November 2001 Hon Annette King Speech Notes

Good morning. The “Working Together” conference is an historic first, and for that reason I offer a special welcome to overseas visitors who are taking part in it.

I am very happy to be here today because, as the New Zealanders at this conference well know, the theme of “working together” is an essential element of the new public health system we are creating in this country.

I am sure none of us really want to “work apart”, but for far too much of the past decade that’s what has been happening, willingly or unwillingly, in areas of the health sector.

Greater collaboration and greater cooperation have to be at the heart of the health system if we are going to make the best possible use of the finite amount of dollars New Zealand can afford to spend on health.

That is why I am so pleased about the good will and collaborative attitude that lies at the heart of this joint conference.

It is genuinely heartening for me to see two organisations, which have not always worked closely together, coming together to formulate innovative ideas and to pursue a common resolve of trying to address the challenges facing the New Zealand public health system.

It is also a further chapter in the proud histories of the two organisations.

Both the Clinical Leaders Association of New Zealand and the New Zealand Institute of Health Management have faithfully represented their members’ interests and the public they serve for many years.
I firmly believe that collaboration and dialogue are at the heart of all effective health responses. This should be a truism regardless of who is in government and regardless of what policies are in favour at any one time.

Sadly, as I said, that has not been the case far too often in recent years, but this Government has given its explicit support to breaking down barriers in the health system and achieving the more collaborative and innovative structure you will discuss during your conference.

The Government is determined to reduce all barriers to cooperation whether they are barriers to cooperation between professional groups or barriers to New Zealanders accessing health services.

The New Zealand Health Strategy, The Primary Care Strategy, Draft Health of Older People Strategy and An Integrated Approach to Infectious Disease Priorities for Action documents all put greater flexibility, innovation and responsiveness at the centre of the Government’s vision for the health system.

As far as I am concerned, this reinforces the fact that funding is only part of the equation for a better public health system.

Ultimately attitudes, organisational structures and working relationships within the sector will determine its success. Money cannot achieve this by itself.

It is certainly in keeping with this Government’s vision to move away from the concept of looking at clinical and non-clinical issues as entirely separate issues.

I again commend you for your efforts in placing less importance on artificial boundaries, and adopting a more strategic long-term approach to your joint role in the public health system.

Health Quality and Innovation Awards

I also want to take this opportunity to briefly talk about a major initiative in quality systems in the health system that is going to be fully outlined by the Ministry of Health’s Chief Advisor (Medical), Dr Colin Feek, later in the conference.

Dr Feek will be speaking about a system of Health Quality and Innovation Awards that is to be established by the Ministry of Health. The new awards will recognise outstanding innovation, good practice and high quality initiatives in the health and disability sectors.

Both of your organisations have a long-standing focus on quality in the health system and I am sure your members will be interested in the new awards.

I also hope your two organisations will support the Government’s other initiatives to place quality at the heart of the public health system. I will not accept poor quality because governments have a responsibility to ensure safe and high quality services.

This is absolutely crucial to re-establishing public trust in the public health system.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to be part of this important occasion today.

I congratulate you on the spirit of cooperation that has brought your two organisations together. I am sure you will enjoy making new contacts, learning about new ideas and contributing to achieving the high quality standards we all aspire to see in our public health system.

I wish you all the best for the remainder of your time together. By that I mean both during and after the conference, of course. Thank you.

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