Health system 'is not working'

18:23, Nov 28 2013
Colleen Tuuta
Colleen Tuuta

A prominent Taranaki health representative says Government interference has made her job impossible.

Taranaki District Health Board member Colleen Tuuta fired a departing shot yesterday, saying it was the most frustrating governance situation she had ever been in.

There was a lot of interference, mainly from the Government, which made the job frustrating, she said.

The model needed to be looked at, reviewed and given a makeover.

"Something is not working. This model is not working. We can build new hospitals, but not make people well," she said.

It was the last meeting of the current Taranaki DHB and departing members said their goodbyes.


Health Minister Tony Ryall will announce the four people he has appointed to the board and name the chairperson sometime next week.

Ms Tuuta, who had decided to step down, doubted whether she had achieved anything during her three-year "tour of duty".

"I don't know that I have."

After three years "where is Maori health now?" she asked.

"The message I give to my people is: You don't want to go there unless you have to. Acute we do exceptionally well, but after that we do have some big issues."

She took her hat off to chairwoman Mary Bourkebut said she was "very pleased" to be moving on.

"Good luck to those of you who are staying on," she said.

Kura Denness was also leaving after three terms as an appointed board member.

"I think we have made some progress, but the high hopes and naivete you come on [the board] with soon gets battered out of you."

In some ways being on the board was frustrating, she said.

"I don't know if I have made a huge difference and I'm grumpy about that."

Dr Peter Catt did not seek re-election after 12 years on the board.

He sounded a positive note, saying it had been a rewarding time.

Everyone "slags off" the bureaucrats in the health system, but without them the whole system would collapse, he said.

"What the community need to remember is that the DHB system is 20 per cent of your health outcomes. Health outcomes are about what is done in society."

Maori health is still being neglected, he said.

"If we were Countdown or Pak 'N Save we would not be neglecting 15 per cent of our market, even if they didn't fit the mould. We need to do more for Maori patients and need to focus on Maori health," he said.

And while it was easy to get excited about high-tech medicine, that is not what the board should be spending money on when people were not getting the basic services, Dr Catt said.

"People don't have money for the doctor or $5 for a prescription. We need to work in the community."

It was left to chairwoman Miss Bourke, who is also not seeking reappointment, to have the last say.

There can be no doubt about the passion and commitment of the leadership team and staff at the DHB, she said.

And the board was unanimous in its commitment and passion to do its best.

One of the challenges ahead was that the DHB was not a standalone entity - it was part of the fabric of the Taranaki community.

"We need to make compromises to be part of the bigger picture.

"I have no doubt people have the ability to do that. They have to be allowed to do that."

The next board is sworn in on December 9 and meets for the first time on December 19.

Taranaki Daily News