Better Health South - Board Updated May 2021

Pete Hodgson, Chair
Pete Hodgson, Chair
What will our new health system look like?

Health is in for a shake-up – the biggest in at least 20 years. What will our new health system look like?

I am excited by the change. Yet I have a few misgivings too.

I see two big advantages. Firstly, it is designed to make a real difference to Māori health. The life expectancy gap is seven or eight years. Non-Māori live almost 10 per cent longer than do Māori. For a nation that seeks to give all citizens an equal shot at a fulfilling live, this is a big disparity.

The new system will tackle the fact that Māori are less likely to use the health system, or use it in time. Of course, someone’s life span is not improved by just by having ready access to the health system. The social determinants of health such as employment or housing play a large role. But poor health care for Māori is a reality, and it must be addressed.

Secondly, the new national approach should help iron out differences from one region to another. We have seen the recent stories about growing waiting lists in the Southern district for some cancer treatments. These are serious issues which we must address forthwith. Other New Zealanders are currently getting better treatment than we are.

Yet there are other areas where we receive better service than other parts of New Zealand – most heart conditions as an example. Of course, ‘good news’ doesn’t make the headlines; we hear only of failure not success. Yet other New Zealanders are getting fewer of those services than we are.

My main misgiving is that I do not yet understand how the new system will hear from our communities. Some areas have locality networks – Central Otago is a good example – and it may be that they should be deployed everywhere. I know the Minister is placing a lot of emphasis on ensuring that the voice of communities is heard, but the detail of how that might best happen isn’t yet clear.


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