Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says DHBs 'more motivated' than councils to fluoridate water

Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman visits Wairau Hospital, in Blenheim, on Friday.
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Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman visits Wairau Hospital, in Blenheim, on Friday.

Health boards will be "more motivated" to fluoridate water supplies than local authorities, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says. 

Coleman announced plans to shift responsibility from local authorities to health boards last week as part of efforts to increase fluoridation rates in New Zealand and combat the country's high rates of avoidable tooth decay.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman suggested that central government should take responsibility for fluoridation, and giving health boards control over the issue was a "cop out". 

However, Coleman rejected claims by Sowman that health boards would face the same fluoridation challenges as local authorities during a visit to Marlborough on Friday. 

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"It will be different. I think DHBs will be far more motivated to put fluoride in the water," he said.

"I think we will see an increase in fluoridation." 

Responsibility for the decision to fluoridate water supplies fell more naturally alongside health boards, Coleman said. 

Only 27 of the country's 67 local authorities were fluoridating their water, leaving 1.4 million Kiwis without fluoridation.

Coleman was in Marlborough as part of his trip to open Kaikoura's new Integrated Family Health Facility.

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More than 400 people turned out to support the opening, including Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray, representatives from the Canterbury District Health Board and Te Runanga o Kaikoura. 

On his way to Kaikoura he also visited Wairau Hospital, the Marlborough Community Health Hub and Maori health service, Te Piki Oranga. 

Coleman said as Minister for Health he tried to get out in the community as much as possible.

Wairau Hospital operations manager Sue Allen said Coleman was at Wairau Hospital for more than an hour and visited the paediatric ward, inpatient unit, mental health unit and Churchill Trust.

"The visit was a good experience, all staff made themselves available to talk to the minister and were welcoming and friendly." 

 - The Marlborough Express

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