Andrew Little admits there are 'gaps to fill in' as Government looks to shake up healthcare system

Health Minister Andrew Little admits there's "a whole lot of gaps to fill in", but said sweeping changes to New Zealand's healthcare system have been well-received.

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Andrew Little says New Zealanders wanted to see change in the sector, especially for Māori. Source: Breakfast

Yesterday, the Government announced one of the biggest healthcare reforms ever seen in Aotearoa.

There are two big ticket items to take away from the announcement.

Firstly, all 20 district health boards are going to be scrapped and replaced by one national organisation, called Health New Zealand.

Secondly, a new Māori Health Authority is being created to commission health services, monitor the state of Māori health and develop policy.

Little this morning told Breakfast there was a "a lot of mahi" to do over the next year, but that interim organisations will be put together in the next two to three months.

"Then they'll start to build up the processes and the permanent organisations, subject to the legislation getting passed, which we'd hope by end of April next year, be in place for 1 July next year," he added.

"A lot of mahi to do over the next 12 months, I'm determined that by the first of July next year we have those entities in place and they can exercise the statutory powers they have.

"That's then the start of getting the processes and systems and most importantly the culture in place that's really going to transform the way health services are delivered."

At the moment, though, Little said he had been engaging with stakeholders and DHB chief executives, who he said were collectively on board with the changes.

"The message I'd got beforehand was people saying we need to change, the system was not delivering and especially not delivering for Māori. 

"So I think we've got a sector that was ready for change and the feedback yesterday was 'yeah, we get it and we're on board and we want to help make this work".

"This is about an opportunity now, and look there's a heap of detail to fill in, a whole lot of gaps we've got to fill in, but that's the process now is to work with all the stakeholders and start putting that together and making it work."

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National's health spokesperson says he's concerned about a loss of community voice and lack of clarity around costs. Source: Breakfast

However, National's health spokesperson Shane Reti - speaking on Breakfast this morning - slammed the changes as "reckless and rushed". 

He said he was concerned about a loss of community voice through scrapping DHB's, as well as a lack of clarity around cost in yesterday's announcement.

"How do we know that this is effective and efficient? If it's anything like the polytechnic reforms it'll be in the hundreds of millions and that's money that won't go to hips and knees and hands and cataracts, if you like - the top four procedures we do electively.

"The one cost we do know is the $5 million for the transition unit that is to get to the starting point. We spent $5 million already. To put that in context, that's the same amount of Pharmac funding we put aside for rare disorders. So we're already burning money before we actually get up and running."

Reti also said it was "disappointing" that DHBs were being scrapped, and apologised to elected members who had been "disrespected" by Little.

When asked about his opinion of the Māori Health Authority, Reti also stood by National leader Judith Collins' comments yesterday that healthcare should be based on need, not race.

"We think having a Māori Health Authority based in Wellington or further away from the bedside and further way from home is not to deliver care," he said.