DHBs to be scrapped, new Māori Health Authority to be created in major health system shake up

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

New Zealand’s health system is in for a significant shake up. Changes include an end to district health boards in favour for a national organisation, as well as creating a new Māori Health Authority and a new public health agency.

The announcement by Health Minister Andrew Little comes after a scathing report found New Zealand’s health system was under "serious stress", lacked leadership and did not serve Māori or people with disabilities well.

Today’s changes go even further than the recommendations in the Health and Disability System Review – instead of reducing the number of DHBs – it scraps the model altogether.

“The reforms will mean that for the first time, we will have a truly national health system, and the kind of treatment people get will no longer be determined by where they live,” Little said.

The national organisation will be named Health New Zealand which will have four regional divisions.

It will run hospitals and commission primary and community health services.

“The reforms herald a change in focus for the health system, we will treat people before they get sick so they don’t need to go to hospital, thereby taking the pressure off hospitals.

The new Māori Health Authority, recommended by the health report, is set to have powers to commission health services, monitor Māori health and develop policy.

The review found that health outcomes for Māori were significantly worse than for others, representing “failure of the health and disability system and does not reflect te Tiriti commitments”.

Associate Māori Health Minister Peeni Henare said Māori health had “suffered for too long”.

He said the Māori Health Authority would have joint decision-making rights “to agree to strategies, policies and plans that affect Māori at all levels of the system”.

It would be working with the national organisation Health New Zealand.

Responsibility for public health issues would go under the new Public Health Authority.

It aimed to “provide leadership” on public health policy, strategy and intelligence.

Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said the Public Health Authority would provide technical expertise, acting with Public Health Units, “so we are better equipped to fight future outbreaks and pandemics”.

The reforms would be phased in over three years.

Little said it was the first phase in the Government’s response to the Health and Disability System Report.

“We know there is more to do, particularly around disability support services and we have asked for more advice on that, and we are committed to working with the sector as we continue to update our health system.