National 23 April 2021
Kia ora

It has been a momentous week for the health sector with Health Minister Andrew Little's announcement of a radical health reform programme. As ASMS members you will be at the frontline of the changes. We want to assure you that we will support you along the way, working for you and in the interests of best patient care.

The Health and Disability System reforms — what do they mean for you?

We know there were some very big surprises in this week’s major health reform announcement. Not least of those was the decision to scrap the 20 DHBs and hand operational management of hospitals and services over to a new national entity called Health New Zealand.

Key components of the changes are:

  • No more DHBs or PHOs
  • Health NZ as national employer and health funder
  • Four Health NZ regions (which broadly align with current ASMS regions)
  • Ministry of Health as a policy maker and regulator only
  • A fully commissioned, standalone Māori Health Authority
  • The 12 regional public health units to be integrated into a national public health agency

Read ASMS’ response in our press release Bold Response to Tackle Stressed Health System.

The changes are due to take effect on 1 July 2022. You can read the Government’s official information on the reform programme here.

We haven’t yet received any information about the transition process, but we expect it means that ASMS DHB members will have their employment transferred to Health NZ. This will require legislative change, and we expect significant engagement with the employers as the details of your employment under Health NZ are thrashed out.

The Minister acknowledged health understaffing and made it clear that current clinical workforces will be maintained. ASMS will continue to advocate for more overall funding and investment in health, along with staffing increases, and national workforce mapping. We hope this will be a priority for the interim Health NZ and will be making this expectation very clear. We will also be working hard to ensure that clinical voice is heard in all the decision making at both local and national levels.

In the meantime, if you have any concerns or questions, please email me or your local industrial officer. We’re always happy to talk to you and to provide advocacy and support. Find the industrial officer responsible for your area here.

MECA update

We have had eight days of bargaining at three weekly intervals. The DHBs have asked for a brief pause to consider their position (and ours). This means discussions won’t resume until late May.
We will be sending more information in our MECA Matters newsletter shortly so look out for that.

New National Executive

Last week your new National Executive met for the first time and the team was formally welcomed at an event at our Wellington offices. You can find more information about your national representatives here.

Pictured are:

(L-R standing) Professor Murray Barclay (immediate past-President), Dr Katie Ben, Dr Julian Fuller, Dr Andrew Ewens (Vice-President)

(L-R seated) Dr Sylvia Boys, Dr Nathalie de Vries (National Secretary), Dr Annette van Zeist-Jongman, Dr Julian Vyas (President), Dr Kai Haidekker

Absent: Dr Seton Henderson, Dr Andrew Robinson

Rural health at a crossroads

ASMS has produced a Research Brief which discusses the challenges facing rural communities in accessing health care and the difficulties recruiting medical professionals. It provides a background to the subject of rural hospital medicine and discusses how it fits with rural generalism. We think it’s an important discussion and encourage you to read it here.

Psychiatrist survey

Just a heads up to all our psychiatry members to look out for a survey from our Research and Policy team. We are planning an in-depth report into the pressures facing our mental health services and workforce. An invitation to participate in the survey will go out next month.

JCCs – get ready for Round Two

Round Two of JCC meetings is due to get underway shortly. JCCs provide a unique opportunity for ASMS members to meet with DHB managers and discuss issues of interest or concern. You can find out when your next JCC is here. We will continue to offer Zoom to encourage as many members as possible to attend.

The health reforms are certain to be a big topic of discussion. ASMS will be looking looking carefully at how we engage with members at all our sites once the Health NZ structure is in place. JCCs as they currently operate will probably finish along with the DHBs. This is something we will be consulting with members about — through emails, at meetings, and at conference.

I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the meetings.

Ngā mihi

Sarah Dalton