13 February 2008
Today's comments from the Health and Disability Commissioner about the safety of New Zealand's hospitals need to be acted on urgently, says the New Zealand Medical Association.
Commissioner Ron Paterson told Parliament that New Zealand hospitals are unsafe and the health system lacks national leadership.
The NZMA has been calling for action on these issues for years, NZMA Chair Peter Foley said today.
"Individual doctors and health practitioners working in the health system have enormous goodwill and are keen to do the best they can for patients. However, it is hugely frustrating to them that the systems in place often impede their efforts.
"We have 21 District Health Boards for four million people, each doing things in a different way. The NZMA has long been concerned about this structure, and we agree with Mr Paterson that there needs to be national consistency, for the sake of patients.
"The Government must ensure that crucial health planning is not conducted on an ad hoc basis in response to local financial crisis situations," Dr Foley said. "Many DHBs shared underlying problems, which need to be addressed in a nationally consistent manner. We have noted Ministry of Health moves in these directions, but changes need to happen more quickly."
Dr Foley said there were three key elements which need to be put in place to address the pressures facing both our hospitals and the wider health sector:
- The Ministry of Health must urgently develop a national comprehensive medical workforce strategy. The NZMA has been calling for this for more than 10 years.
- There must be a move away from the obsession with funding as the primary focus, and a return to an acceptance that service delivery by professionals is the key element of our health system.
- We need comprehensive policy frameworks for services in the interests of national consistency. Included in these must be a national tertiary services plan.