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Cautiously Optimistic On The Eve Of Health Reforms

Tomorrow will see the introduction of the most significant changes to the New Zealand health system in decades.

Executive director of the country’s leading primary health organisation, the Federation of Primary Health Aotearoa New Zealand (FPHANZ) Angela Francis, says they support the reforms, addressing workforce issues is absolutely critical to the success of the changes.

“The issues are well known. We need to see a clear and strategic plan related to staff resourcing,” she says. “That could for example include recruitment campaigns, employment fairs bringing key health HR companies from all over the world to New Zealand, and supporting people to better access and train in the roles we so badly need.”

It has been widely reported that the country is currently short of around 4000 nurses and hundreds of midwives.

“These are just two examples of critical shortages in our health system,” says Ms Francis.

Federation board member and former deputy director of Māori health at the Ministry of Health, Teresa Wall, says although the health reform changes are significant, the fact that New Zealand is a small country should help implementation happen quickly.

“There are already some excellent community-based organisations providing effective health services to Māori, and the establishment of the Māori Health Authority will support the delivery of those and new services. The reforms are putting the emphasis squarely on primary and community healthcare which we know is the place to address health inequity,” she says.

Consumer representative on the FPHNZ board, Philip Chapman, is based in Nelson and is the National Chair of Male Survivors Aotearoa. He works with people affected by homelessness, family violence, sexual violence, addiction and mental health. He says he hopes that the next stage of the health reform implementation includes direct input from those working in the community.

“Many of the health issues we see are inextricably linked with wider societal problems such as housing and poverty. It is so important that community voices inform the way these are addressed as part of the health reforms and to be frank, I am not confident there has been that input to date. It’s actually common-sense to have community knowledge and experience contributing to how the new system can most effectively address the urgent needs in the community,” says Mr Chapman.

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