In a colossal foul-up typical nowadays of NZ health care management, Health Minister David Cunliffe appears to have amputated the wrong leg in his recent medical intervention in Hawke’s Bay.
Certainly that’s the case made by Craig Foss, this week’s Guest Buzzmaker, along with most other local politicians.
Or maybe Cunliffe has done the right thing for the wrong reason?
On the one hand, one would think ousted Health Board Chairman Kevin Atkinson has actually been raising people from the dead, given the stampede to vilify his martyrdom. Unfortunately, the poor state of public health in the region, unimproved during his tenure (and that of his other re-elected Board veterans), would suggest otherwise.
On the other hand, Minister Cunliffe has managed to offend virtually everyone in Hawke’s Bay with what appears to be spiteful handling of democratically elected people of high personal integrity.
“They might be an anemic, under-performing Board, but they’re our anemic under-performing Board,” seems to be the rallying cry of local politicians.
So our Bay councils are charging forward, planning to spend in the neighborhood of $100,000 to “get to the bottom” of this controversy.
I can think of several better options for our local councils than spending $100,000 of ratepayer money on lawyering, if their goal is really to improve health care in the Bay.
Let me ask you: which of the following steps would do the most to improve the health of the people of Hawke’s Bay …
- Hire a lawyer;
- Hand over the $100K to the DHB to do more of whatever it is that health boards do;
- Use the $100K in some fashion to improve primary health care in the region; or,
- Ban fast food restaurants in Hawke’s Bay!
As for the violation of democracy, most people are lamenting the axing of a group of people they wouldn’t even be able to identify, much less evaluate the performance of.
Quick! Name three current members of the DHB … Now, identify something concrete any of those members has done to improve your health or the Bay’s health care system. And for the grand prize, how about this one … The powers of the DHB are … ???
Some say “who cares” about the elected DHB, since they have virtually no authority to make important decisions anyway … they simply spend Wellington’s funds the way the Health Ministry stipulates. So why do we need local health boards? What value do they add? What contributions do they make? I find myself asking those questions more and more.
David Cunliffe, if you’re going to declare war on local health boards, do it with integrity and consistency. Axe them all! But keep in mind that, in doing so, you’ll be left with no place to hide. You’ll be drawing attention to Labour’s bungling of the health care system. And it will be easier to fix real responsibility and accountability for what has happened to NZ health care since 1999.