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I’m delighted, and saddened, to be writing to you as your new Board chair – delighted because it is a privilege; saddened because I am replacing Dave Cull who is grappling with a serious illness.
I am not new to health. I have been involved in many ways over the years, including time as Health Minister during the Helen Clark government. But I am new to this particular job, and I am grateful to those who have offered their knowledge and wisdom as I try to come up to speed. There is a lot to learn. The Southern District Health Board is large and complicated; it affects all our lives to some extent or other.
For the past three years I have been chairing an outfit called the Southern Partnership Group, which has been responsible for getting the new Dunedin hospital underway. This is a very big undertaking – the largest hospital project in New Zealand’s history. All the key decisions about size, shape and contents have now been taken, the design is progressing on track, and of course the necessary demolition and site preparation is there for all to see.
So it is time for governance of that project to pass to people who have actually built a hospital! I will remain on the steering group, along with other locals, but the emphasis now moves from strategic thinking to construction and that requires a skill set I do not have.
The new Dunedin hospital is not being built just for those in and around Dunedin; it is being built for all of us. The way we serve the people of the Otago- Southland area will evolve a lot. Many things have to change in the way we deliver services to our public if we are to get the best out of this new facility. We will keep you updated regarding those details as time goes by, but an obvious one to think about from the outset is the role of digital technology in the delivery of health.
Other changes are afoot too, but are independent of the new Dunedin hospital. Examples include the way mental health is delivered and the development of a disability strategy. Again we will keep you abreast of developments as they occur.
So there are some big changes afoot in our health system. The urgent issues like the vaccine rollout, lead contamination or crowding at the Emergency Department will be in the daily news for a while, because they matter so very much. But my gaze is also on the longer term issues I have touched on above. Because in the long term they matter even more.
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