Andrew Little wrecking DHBs in a pandemic

Andrew Little and the Labour Government are taking a wrecking ball to district health boards by introducing a bill that will dissolve DHBs and permanently damage the goodwill of staff and communities, says National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti.

“Labour did not campaign on complete removal of all DHBs, a commissioning Maori Health Authority or a Māori health veto. The Government has no mandate for these changes.

“Official documents show a small return on HealthNZ as the replacement to DHBs.

“Furthermore, any benefits seem to hinge on reducing acute admissions, re-admissions and reducing length of stay in hospitals. Clearly, Labour will kick people out of hospitals early.

“Presumably primary care is the safety net but with no plan, funding or structure for how this will work.

“Locality networks is where the rubber really hits the road for communities in the replaced DHB structure, but Andrew Little will take two years to argue about locality boundaries (to 2024) and another year for the first locality health plans (to 2025).

“The Māori Health Authority will barely break even over 15 years and also relies heavily on hospital readmissions again without a plan. Treasury describes the certainty of the benefits as low-to-medium, with risks that include no improvement to overall wellbeing or the Māori-Crown relationship.

“It is also odd and deeply worrying that, in the Regulatory Impact Statement for the Māori Health Authority, an important public disclosure document, material is redacted in the cost benefit analysis section titled ‘Assumptions that underpinned the bid’. This is unheard of. Māori should be worried they are being set up to fail, with assumptions that may be so fanciful the Government wants to hide them.

“The last clause in the regulatory impact statement should be a warning for Māori on the long game under this Government for any changes to be delivered: ‘It is unlikely that results of change will be clear any sooner than five years’.

“New Zealanders will be angry that, in the middle of a pandemic, this is what health funds are being spent on. It’s also a reason why Auckland remains in prolonged lockdown, because, instead of funding ICU beds, Andrew Little has made health system restructuring the number one funding priority.

“Andrew Little is wrecking the health system and the hard work and goodwill of health workers – in the middle of a pandemic. He needs to come clean with Māori and remove the redactions and redirect the hundreds of millions of restructuring dollars into existing services, instead of his vanity project.”