Health reforms framework introduced to Parliament

A bill intended to provide the framework for the country’s new national health system is now before Parliament, but the detail remains a mystery.

The Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill is intended to underpin the health reforms and establish both Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority.

Health Minister Andrew Little called it “an exciting day” in the step towards a better health system, saying the bill provided a real opportunity to address inequities that plagued the current district health board system.

But the bill was not yet publicly available and there was no indication when this might happen. Stuff has sought clarity on this.

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Little said the bill set up the framework for a national health system, focused on the Crown’s obligations under Te Tirti o Waitangi, and ensured a transparent and accountable system, such as establishing a health charter which would govern the workforce.

“The approach we’re taking is to legislate and have a system that is responsive for different needs and truly seeks to address long-standing inequities,” Little said.

He and associate health ministers Peeni Henare, Ayesha Verrall and Aupito William Sio, discussed the bill via a 40-minute Zoom call, which close to 2000 people tuned into.

The framework is intended to address long-standing inequities in the health system, Andrew LIttle said.

Hush Naidoo/Unsplash

The framework is intended to address long-standing inequities in the health system, Andrew LIttle said.

“Above all it’s about getting greater and better equity for all. We will have a long way to go, we will have a long journey to run, but with this legislation we will be able to work in a framework that seriously improves life for every New Zealander,” Little said.

It’s almost a year since the Government announced it would abolish all 20 District Health Boards and create Health New Zealand as a single organisation, in a sweeping plan to centralise New Zealand’s fragmented healthcare system and end the “postcode lottery” of care.

Henare noted the bill required establishment of a Hauroa Maori advisory committee and formally recognised iwi health boards for the first time.

Sio, also the Minister for Pacific Peoples, said the framework included a new requirement for a national strategy for Pacific health.

Pacific providers mobilised quickly to respond to Covid-19, which showed strength in collectivism, he said.

Appointments for the interim boards of Health NZ and the Māori Health Authority were announced in September.

The announcements raised the ire of several health organisations, including the Royal New Zealand College of GPs and the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation, over the lack of representation of general practitioners, nurses and midwives on the boards.

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