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DHB era ends


Thursday was the last day of the Wairarapa District Health Board. New Zealand’s health reforms are here.

Health Minister Andrew Little and Associate Minister Peeni Henare has officially launched a new health authority, Health New Zealand.

Wairarapa DHB’s chief executive Dale Oliff will remain in the health service for the transition. She will adopt a new role today as the interim district director.

Oliff said not much would change immediately.

“The government are launching a new banner, new branding.

“Health NZ will look and feel different, but as far as the nuts and bolts of health services go, on day one, there will be very little difference.

“You go to the same place for appointments, to your same GP, and we still have Wairarapa Hospital.”

She said the change would take place over two years.

“We want to keep the public informed as best as we can.”

With the DHBs scrapped, each health board would be absorbed into four regions: Northern, Te Manawa Taki, Central [including Wairarapa], and Te Waipounamu.

As the reforms come into effect, localities will become regional hubs around the country. Nine localities were already set in April this year, including Otara/Papatoetoe, Hauraki, Taupo/Turangi, Wairoa, Whanganui, Porirua, West Coast, Eastern Bay of Plenty, and Horowhenua.

Oliff said it would not be a big adjustment to work within a larger region, because Wairarapa DHB had worked closely with its neighbours Hutt Valley and Capital and Coast DHBs in the past. The

Ministry of Health’s [MOH] role would also change with the introduction of the new authorities. MOH’s role would shift primarily to policy and monitoring systems.

Oliff was hopeful the new authority would have a better outreach to rural communities and that the quality of services would be consistent and abolish New Zealand’s “postcode lottery”.

She said there would be health staff around Wairarapa to gradually bring more services to all areas.

“It may be out of a bus or a van to get the services closer to the people.

Oliff described the new system as “like the NHS [publicly funded healthcare system in England], but with a New Zealand flavour”.

The government would also introduce a second health entity called the Maori Health Authority [MHA], with national, regional, and local representatives.

When asked if Wairarapa was ready for the transition, Oliff said the reform was coming “whether we’re ready or not”.

Wairarapa DHB had its last ever board meeting on Monday. Oliff said there was a lot of reminiscing, as some members had been on the board for 20 years.

She said the regional health service would be busy with an upcoming covid-19 booster rollout for those at increased risk of severe illness from the virus.

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