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Waikato DHB Commissioners Group Hold Final Meeting

The Waikato DHB Commissioners Group held its final meeting on Wednesday as all DHBs prepare for the transition to a new national health system from July 1.

Commissioner Dame Karen Poutasi was appointed in 2019 as the DHB was forecasting increasing deficits and at risk of hitting a $100m deficit if changes were not made.

Dame Karen was supported by deputy commissioners Emeritus Professor Margaret Wilson, Chad Paraone, and Mr Andrew Connolly, with the chair of the Iwi Māori Council Te Pora Thompson-Evans and more recently Katarina Hodge joining the commissioners group. Independent chair Debbie Chin was appointed to lead the Finance Risk and Audit Committee and Crown Monitor Ken Whelan provided further guidance and oversight. The Commissioners Group also appointed a new chief executive, Dr Kevin Snee, in 2019.

The DHB has undergone significant transformation during the past three years. It has achieved its financial targets each year and is expecting to see a continued improvement of its financial position. At the same time the DHB has continued to focus on developing hospital services and on building and investing in primary and community partnerships which help strengthen care across the region. This has helped the DHB to improve the delivery and quality of services to where it now measures very favourably against comparable organisations.

Equity has been a core focus of the DHB at a governance and community level with increased partnerships, collaboration, and representation, underpinned by the creation of the DHB’s equity report in 2021.

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At the final meeting Dame Karen thanked all those working across the DHB and community health and welfare providers.

“This DHB and wider Waikato health system has outstanding, skilled, and dedicated people across all areas and the changes we have been through have been with the intention of supporting those people to do what they do best, and focus on caring for our community.

“When we began this journey we thought it would take around five years for the organisation to achieve the growth and quality improvements to reach the point we are at now, and that was before we had heard about COVID-19 and other challenges which the DHB has stepped up to meet.”

The commissioners acknowledged that although the DHB had made good progress, the past two years had brought challenges which contributed to significant pressure for the whole health system today.

“There has been adversity for the healthcare services and the community as we have worked through several major events such as the Whakaari/White Island eruption, cyber-attack, and the ongoing pandemic. The response to these events has shown the incredible dedication and ability of the people who work in our health system, but we are also acutely aware of how difficult this has been and remains for teams across the Waikato and New Zealand.”

Dame Karen said the new health system was an opportunity to deliver positive change and equity more rapidly.

“A unified system can remove some of those obstacles to progress, allowing us to make changes much faster and with less disruption. As a region we are now working more closely than ever across DHBs and with community providers and are well placed to deliver on the promise of a new and better connected health system.”

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