Emerge Aotearoa Trust CE Barbara Disley responds to health and disability system reform announcement

The Minister of Health Hon Andrew Little has indicated that there will be radical reform of our health and disability system. The changes herald long awaited shifts for Māori, with the establishment of a strong Māori Health Authority, that will influence policy and strategy within the Ministry of Health and work in partnership with Health NZ to commission care across New Zealand.   

The big news is that the DHB structure as we know it will be disestablished and a new national entity set up to oversee all national planning and funding for all health services. The Government has said there will be a much stronger emphasis on all people getting access early to affordable support. It is aiming for Te Tiriti to be reflected in all aspects of the health system and equity of outcomes to be a much bigger driver. The Ministry of Health will have no funding or operational roles as this will pass to Health NZ.

A Public Health Agency will be established within the Ministry of Health to provide national leadership on public health policy and strategy and the existing public health units will be brought together into a national public health service within Health NZ. The changes are hoped to deliver strengthened Iwi-Māori Partnership Boards, influencing and making decisions for iwi and Māori in each locality, so that Te Tiriti operates at every level of the health system. Within primary and community care there will be locality networks of healthcare providers in the community that will be required to work more seamlessly to wrap care around individuals. These networks will be shaped by Health NZ and the Māori Health Authority. 

The changes heralded above will have major implications for all community organisations, NGOs and mental health providers. The Government has said there will be a much stronger emphasis on working collaboratively and on wrapping the right type and level of supports around people early. While detail on the  community hubs and networks that will be put in place are slim, the changes present an opportunity for communities to be active participants in ensuring that health services are accessible and easy to access. The challenge for us all will be to ensure that the centre does not dominate our communities and that communities and their needs are the drivers of what actually happens on the ground. The changes are a call to action for us all to work much more collaboratively than we have in the past in the interest of a fairer, easily accessible and responsive health system for all.

Emerge Aotearoa Chief Executive Barbara Disley