28 Oct 2022

More focus on Te Tiriti O Waitangi as national health plan released

7:40 pm on 28 October 2022
Health minister Andrew Little, flanked by the country's top health sector leaders, launches a new interim health plan for the country outside Taupō Hospital today.

Health Minister Andrew Little. Photo: Supplied

The first-ever national health plan has been released by government agencies, aiming for a a huge shake up of the system over the next two years.

It's big on ideas such as changing the way the sector gets workers and with more focus on Te Tiriti O Waitangi (Treaty of Waitangi).

Critics said it lacked detail but Health Minister Andrew Little has said that is not the point.

A mihi whakatau welcomed Little and the country's top health leaders to Taupō Hospital on Friday.

They were there to launch Te Pae Tata - a plan by the new agencies Te Whatu Ora (Health New Zealand) and Te Aka Whai Ora (Māori Health Authority).

Little said it was about changing the health system.

"This sets out a range of tasks that reflect very much priorities today, but also the first steps of reorienting and to some extent rebuilding the system that we've got so that we don't find ourselves repeating the kind of circumstances that we're in today."

Shane Reti

National health spokesperson Shane Reti. File image. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

But away from the limelight of the launch, National's health spokesperson Shane Reti said the plan was virtual signalling and light on detail.

He said there were no mentions of "on this date we'll do this action".

"In fact, early up in the document it's just a great discussion actually and sort of philosophical views on this, that and various other things. None of that helps people on waiting lists today."

But Little said the system Labour took over from National was incapable of doing its job and its targets failed.

"We inherited a health system that had buildings literally with shit running down the walls. I don't know what target they were operating to allow that to happen. I don't know what target they were operating to that meant we now have a workforce that simply does not have the numbers to do the job."

Taupō Hospital leaders show Health Minister Andrew Little around a new CT scanner.

Taupō Hospital leaders show Health Minister Andrew Little around a new CT scanner. Photo: Stephen Parker stephenparker.co.

The plan will replace 20 different district annual plans from the old district health boards.

The plan had ideas to improve maternity and cancer care, as well as chronic health and mental illness.

Little said a big part of the plan was addressing workforce shortages by getting people in from overseas.

"In terms of our recruitment offshore, it's no longer distributed amongst 20 different entities and a whole bunch of different organisations in the private sector. One organisation doing right [from] the beginning from attracting, recruiting, processing and getting them where they need to be."

The chairs of the new health agencies also spoke at the launch.

Te Aka Whai Ora chair Tipa Mahuta said she was thinking about how the service could improve outcomes for her mokopuna (grandchildren).

"My biggest mihi today is to the mokopuna here, 'cause in her lifetime she will have a different health narrative. She will know how and when to access services for herself and for her future tamariki and mokopuna. She will be able to place them on a lifelong journey of well-being, not an expectation, as we do now, of suffering."

Te Whatu Ora chair Rob Campbell said both agencies would work together closely on the plan.

"We keep hearing about a separatist health system when people talk about these two organisations. The reality is that we have had a separatist health system for a long time, where too many people were receiving unequal treatment and having unequal outcomes."

Te Pae Tata was an "initial plan" only, to get the new system up and running while the first full scale New Zealand Health Plan was designed by 2024.

- additional reporting by Katie Scotcher