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Annette King Speech: Launch of Otaki PHO

Annette King Speech: Launch of Otaki PHO

Health Minister Annette King launched the Otaki Primary Health Organisation, acknowledging the local community's role in setting it up.

Thank you for the warm welcome today. I am delighted to be here to launch Otaki Primary Health Organisation, and it's great to see so many people here to celebrate such an exciting occasion.

In particular, I want to acknowledge my colleague Darren Hughes, who I'm sure will be a familiar face to you all as the MP for Otaki, Kapiti Coast Mayor Alan Milne, and representatives from MidCentral DHB, the PHO, the five local hapu and from the wider community.

As Minister of Health, I can assure you Darren is a tireless advocate for local health issues, but even I was surprised the other day to receive a text message from him in Paris, where he was visiting while on a scholarship, asking for an update on a local health issue. That is typical Darren. His enthusiasm in terms of local issues knows no bounds, and clearly knows no international time zones either.

I am glad he's now back in Otaki's time zone, and I know he is as glad as I am, as a former MP for this district, to be here to celebrate this launch.

It is important to recognise from the outset that we would not be here celebrating the birth of this new PHO if it was not for the tremendous commitment, willingness and determination of so many people and organisations in your community. Many of you have given your time voluntarily to ensure this PHO becomes a reality, and we can all thank your dedication for being here today.

It is important to mention the Otaki community's role for another reason too, and that is because one of the cornerstones of this Government's Primary Health Care Strategy is its emphasis on community participation in PHO development.

Communities have a vital role to play in determining how best PHOs can cater for local health needs.

Strong support has come from the Otaki Community Health Trust, Otaki Medical Centre, Ngati Raukawa and Nga Hapu o Otaki, the Otaki PHO Governance Board, MidCentral DHB, WIPA, the Otaki Birthing Centre, Otaki Women's Health Group, Plunket and various general practitioners, pharmacists and physiotherapists. Thank you all for your valuable work.

I know there have been some practical geographical challenges in getting this PHO off the ground, and that the challenges are not over yet. I'm sure, however, that the spirit of collaboration and partnership that got you to this stage will overcome any problems that might arise in the future.

As you know, primary health care has become a major funding priority for this Government, and it is a subject very close to my heart. That is why I am excited by the potential benefits this PHO will provide for the health and lifestyle of people in Otaki.

Since I became Health Minister in 1999, nothing has encouraged and invigorated me more than the remarkable momentum the PHO movement has gathered since the first two PHOs started in July 2002.

There are now 68 PHOs around the country, with more than three million New Zealanders enrolled in them. This means that three in every four New Zealanders now belong to a PHO, and almost one in three New Zealanders now have access to more affordable primary health care.

>From the beginning of April almost one in three New Zealanders have been able to get prescribed medicines for no more than $3 a prescription item, and from July all New Zealanders aged 65 and over enrolled in PHOs will also be entitled to the $3 prescription fee and to reduced-cost access to first-level health services through general practices.

These two initiatives represent another $48 million in Government funding for primary health care.

A national PHO publicity campaign is now underway. Many of you have probably noticed the first television advertisements or seen the billboards, and I am pleased that we are kicking off the campaign at the right time, now that PHOs are established right up and down the country.

PHOs are the cornerstone of our new co-ordinated population approach to delivering primary health care fairly and equitably, and are thus the key to successfully implementing the Primary Health Care Strategy, which in turn offers us our best opportunity to improve the health of all New Zealanders.

In placing greater emphasis on services that meet population needs, PHOs are building on existing best practice such as that already demonstrated by the Otaki Medical Centre.

PHOs can reach out and improve access to primary health care by helping to make sure that those who need care, can receive care; by ensuring people know what services are available and how to use them; by putting services where patients are; and by ensuring services are right for people, that visiting the doctor is not overwhelming, and that people develop a clear understanding of how they can look after their own health.

I have no doubt whatsoever that Otaki PHO will do an excellent job of reaching out to its community and staying in touch. I have been told that a health expo was held here this afternoon. I think that was a great example of innovative thinking, and an excellent way to keep Otaki people in the loop about the wide range of local health services available to them. If the expo is an illustration of the way this PHO is going to work, then there is every reason to be optimistic about its success.

I am also very proud to unveil this very creative logo of the Otaki PHO. Fittingly, it was designed by local artist, Tipi Bevan, and incorporates some of the geographical features that help make Otaki such a special place. The logo also incorporates a waka, which symbolises the journey of recovery - a journey made much smoother by the opening of this PHO.

Talking of the journey of recovery reminds me of listening to a keynote address two weeks ago in Slovenia, where I was attending a forum of like-minded countries looking at achieving better health outcomes through public health approaches in primary health care.

The keynote address, on future health challenges, was given by a noted British health researcher, Martin McKee. Dr McKee talked of the importance of using information technology effectively, and put forward the metaphor of travel agents, who map out an entire journey for their clients rather than simply booking airline tickets and hotel reservations, something all of us can do ourselves. I agree with Dr McKee's conclusion that the primary health care team is better placed than anyone else to navigate complete health journeys for their patients using the 'travel agent model'.

So Otaki now has its brand-new travel agency, only it's called a PHO. Congratulations again to everyone who has been involved in this achievement, and thank you very much for asking me to be part of this special occasion.

It gives me great pleasure to declare the Otaki PHO well and truly open.

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