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Minister opens medical centre

Mon, 31 Jan 2005

Minister opens medical centre

Wainuiomata families to benefit from new oral health facility

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It's my great pleasure to be here today for the official opening of the new Whai Oranga O Te Iwi medical centre, and particularly for the launch of the new Dental Care Unit. The Minister of Health, Hon Annette King, is very sorry she is unable to be with you today. As I'm sure you know oral health issues are very close to her heart, and she has a great deal of respect for the work being done by Hutt Valley District Health Board. She does send her best wishes to you all.

Hutt Valley is one of the country's most innovative and forward-thinking DHBs, and is responding to community needs in a way that sets an admirable example for other DHBs to follow and emulate. The Minister of Health visited the Hutt Valley on several occasions last year to launch innovations that, in many cases, lead the country. These included the launch of youth health clinics in schools, the Hutt Valley DHB Pacific Health Action Plan, the Hutt Valley Community Health Awards, and the Magnet pilot. This is another of these innovations of which the people of the Hutt Valley can be proud.

The Government's Primary Health Care Strategy has many important components. There are now 77 PHOs around the country, with a total of over 3.8 million people enrolled in them. This means that nine in every ten New Zealanders now belong to a PHO, and almost half of all New Zealanders now have access to more affordable primary health care.

I'm sure you know that all New Zealanders aged 65 and over, enrolled in PHOs, now have access to low cost primary care and pay only $3 in prescription charges. Over the next three years extra funding will be rolled out to provide low cost primary care to all New Zealanders enrolled in a PHO. Of course as an Access PHO, people enrolled in Piki Te Ora Ki Te Awakairangi already benefit from increased funding and more affordable primary care.

But the Primary Health Care Strategy isn't just about making it cheaper to visit the doctor, important though that is. There are many other important parts of the strategy which are exemplified by Whai Oranga O Te Iwi Health Service and Piki Te Ora Ki Te Awakairangi PHO.

One important feature of all the health reforms of the Labour led government has been a focus on community involvement, both in District Health Boards and Primary Health Organisations. Whai Oranga O Te Iwi's community ownership model is a great example of this.

Likewise DHBs and PHOs are meant to care for their whole populations, and not just individual patient. The whänau/community development model of health care practised here is just the sort of thing the Primary Health Care Strategy envisages. PHOs have an integral role not only in caring for the sick and injured, but in promoting good health and educating people. The healthy lifestyle programmes through Kokiri Marae, the outreach clinics in schools, the healthy houses programme and all the other education work that goes on demonstrates how this part of the Primary Health Care Strategy should work.

In summary then, this service can be seen as an ideal example of the Government's policies working to provide integrated, accessible, innovative and community-based primary health services. Everyone involved, the DHB, the PHO, and Whai Oranga are to be congratulated on the positive way in which they work together, and the success they have achieved.

The final part of the Primary Health Care Strategy that needs mentioning, and one of the main reasons we are here today, is the idea of a collaborative multi-disciplinary approach. PHOs should not just be about doctors and nurses, but also community workers, counsellors, physiotherapists and oral health workers. And again, you're leading the way in this respect.

This Low Income Oral Health Service Pilot is one of the first examples of oral health workers as part of a Primary Health Organisation. This service has been in development for two years, and the Minister of Health is delighted that it's now up and running.

Until now there has been no publicly funded dental service for adults, except for emergency relief. The terrible inequalities in oral health status that exist for people on low incomes, and for Mäori and Pacific peoples, are well known. Diseases of the teeth and gums are among the most common health problem for New Zealanders of all ages, and it doesn't need to be that way. Oral health is important for general health and wellbeing, both as an indicator of general health issues, and because poor oral health can significantly affect quality of life.

It's particularly important for young people and adolescents, and the Minister is pleased that this new service plans to work with the School Dental Service and the Hospital Dental Unit. Poor oral health can arise as a result of a lack of knowledge and education about diet and proper dental care. That's why its important that this service is part of a PHO - because we need to not only treat people with urgent problems, but also reach out and educate people about good oral health, to prevent oral health problems before they arise, and its just this sort of activity that PHOs are designed to do.

People with a Community Services Card who are enrolled in the PHO will be able to access these low cost services. This will go a long way to addressing oral health concerns in Wainuiomata. The Minister of Health is confident this initiative will be a success, and we hope following a successful evaluation that we'll see this model of oral health care implemented elsewhere.

There are a large number of people who deserve an enormous amount of credit for this new service, far too many for me to thank them all by name. But I do want to thank specifically Peter Glesnor, Grant Moffat and the rest of the Htut Valley Board, Chai Chuah, Robin Wyman and all DHB staff involved in this initiative, Heather Webber from Whai Oranga O Te Iwi, and everyone from Piki Te Ora Ke Te Awakairangi PHO.

This is a wonderful initiative that the Minister of Health is very pleased with, and one you can all be very proud of. I'd like to wish you all the very best for the very best for all the Whai Oranga O Te Iwi staff in these premises, and in particular everyone involved in this oral health pilot.

ENDS

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