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Rearranging deckchairs won't fix the healthcare crisis

21 April 2021

by Chris Leitch, Leader

Responsibility for the greatest health crisis the country has faced since tuberculosis was a major killer of Pākeha New Zealanders, accounting for 10% of all deaths in the late 19th century, can be laid firmly at the revolving door of continual changes to the administration of the health system.  

Back then Māori were even more vulnerable with their tuberculosis death rates around ten times those of non-Māori by the 1930s.

Re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, as proposed by the Government, will not change those relative inequities of outcome which remain today, nor provide more resources to alleviate the critical state of the country’s emergency departments.

Cutting District Health Boards from twenty to one super authority will not reduce waiting lists for hip and knee surgery, colonoscopy, cancer treatment, or a host of other serious health issues, nor operations being cancelled at an increasing rate.

Setting up and funding another health bureaucracy will not fix the issues with hospitals being short staffed, under-resourced, the staff on duty being overworked and stressed and the crisis in mental health growing like a tidal wave.

Shifting highly paid managers and accountants from one well paid management position to an even better paid one won’t disguise the absolute disgrace of a system where a charity hospital in Christchurch provides operations for people who can’t get one in the public system, a charity is setting up a cancer centre so that patients can get proper cancer treatment in Southland, and where a private developer is funding and building a new children’s hospital in Wellington.

Another weighty and expensive report won’t stop resources being taken away from hospitals through the stupidity of health boards being required to pay a capital charge to the government for the land and buildings hospitals occupy.

Green Lane hospital didn’t become an internationally recognised cardiothoracic surgical centre and conduct the first open-heart surgery and the first heart transplant because surgeons Douglas Robb and Brian Barratt-Boyes got there through a structural revamp of hospital administration.

The existing health boards should be provided with the funding they need and left to get on with focusing their attention on how to deliver high quality health services for the people in their area, not how they're going to fit staff into new offices, design new logos, get new stationery and repaint vehicles.

The funding to deliver vastly improved healthcare could be sourced from some of the $100 billion the Reserve Bank is currently creating and would not need to cost taxpayers a single additional dollar.

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