Dom Post on District Health Boards

A good thing may emerge from the sacking of the Hawke’s Bay District Board just a couple of months after they were elected. A questioning of the whole DHB structure.

Up until these events, people like myself who advocated should not be elected, were a very quiet minority. A month ago Matthew Hooton wouldn’t have been able to joke that he thinks Cunliffe should sack all 23 DHBs.

But by showing how DHBs are there to do as the Minister tells them, and that they have little control over important stuff such as funding, the Emperor’s new clothes are displayed.

So we see the Dom Post today saying:

Before Labour formed the government in 1999, health spokeswoman Annette King promised to return democracy to public healthcare, writes The . She argued people were agitating to get back around health board tables so they could have a say in what services their public hospital should provide.

Enter, in 2000, 21 district health boards, each with its own government-appointed chair.

The boards are a cruel hoax. Just how cruel was underlined last week when a King successor, David Cunliffe, sacked the board Hawkes’ Bay voters elected just months earlier and installed a “commissioner” instead. …

The need for a commissioner in the Bay reinforces the health management trick perpetrated on the public. Since DHBs were born, this Government has pretended that their seven-elected, four government-appointed members are those who decide local healthcare priorities. It has also deflected criticism of government funding and priorities their way.

What it has deliberately downplayed is the fact that it, via the Health Ministry, still pulls the strings by setting board budgets and circumscribing their activities. It has also glossed over the reality that, though communities go through a three-yearly charade of half-heartedly electing board members, they serve at the minister’s plea sure. That brutal fact has now come home to Hawke’s Bay voters. …

Mr Cunliffe’s strong faith in his own ability will be no more than self-aggrandisement unless he has the courage to tell the prime minister Labour’s fatally flawed health board model needs fundamental, albeit gradual, overhaul. He won’t. National, if it forms the next government, apparently plans no change, either. Because the electorate doesn’t trust it over public healthcare, it will tread lightly. …

They are indeed a charade and a hoax. The Minister should appoint the DHBs (and there should be less of them) and the Government should be accountable to the publci for their performance.

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