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Survey A Health Wake-Up Call

Survey A Health Wake-Up Call For Developed Countries

Health Minister Annette King says the Commonwealth Fund survey of 2500 doctors and clinicians in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom provides a wake-up call on quality issues in all five countries.

Speaking from Washington, where she and health ministers from the other four countries are attending the Commonwealth Fund International Symposium on Health Care Policy, Mrs King said it was obviously concerning that doctors perceived problems in the quality of care.

But Mrs King said there were also some positive aspects of the survey as far as New Zealand was concerned. "One good thing is that 80 percent of New Zealand doctors, more than in any of the other countries, are prepared to share important information that will lead to ongoing quality improvements.

"Another important finding is that all developed countries are experiencing similar quality problems. New Zealand certainly doesn't have the problems to itself. In fact, in most areas New Zealand comes about middle in the statistics.

"Canada generally seems to have the worst difficulties, and it is interesting that Canada is now adopting policies that are broadly similar to the ones we are adopting here, such as developing a national strategy and establishing links between the government, clinicians and the community."

Mrs King said doctors clearly had a legitimate planning role. "In fact, we must take a partnership approach, involving the government, doctors and the community, to providing quality care. The Government can provide a framework, but we must all work together, and get rid of the culture of blame. That is what we are trying to do by setting up a cooperative, population-based health service in New Zealand."

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Mrs King said it was most useful to discuss solutions to problems with the other health ministers. "There is a lot of strength to be gained from sharing ideas. I am encouraged, for example, by the United States experience of achieving success by focusing on specific problems. The US has increased the rate of immunisation in the population from 55 percent to more than 80 percent by focusing on this issue. The important thing is that once you set up the public health systems to focus on one issue, you can use the systems to focus on other issues too."

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