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National Health Boards Welcomed, Job Losses Not

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Oct 21 NZPA - The creation of a National Health Board has been well received, despite concern about the predicted 500 job losses it will cause.

Cabinet agreed the NHB would be set up within the Ministry of Health and would oversee areas such as IT, payroll, procurement and logistics where there has been duplication from the country's 21 District Health Boards (DHBs).

New Zealand Medical Association chairman Peter Foley welcomed the changes.

It made "great sense to rationalise the backroom services" of DHBs.

"There has been a need for a long time for much greater coordination and centralised policy in a number of fields."

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said he was pleased the Government had chosen to place the NHB within the ministry rather than "creating a new bureaucracy".

It was now important that the right people were appointed to the NHB, he said.

Mr Powell said there was "scepticism" about whether the changes would save as much as $700m, as Mr Ryall had said.

Labour MP Grant Robertson said attrition rates were "very low" at the moment and there was no evidence to suggest 500 health workers would "conveniently" leave their positions when the job market was tight.

The Public Service Association was "alarmed" at the 500 job cuts which it said could adversely affect the delivery of health services.

Every organisation needs staff to do administrative and planning work, national secretary Richard Wagstaff said.

"Our concern is that cutting administrative and clerical workers in hospitals will mean doctors, nurses, radiotherapists and other clinical workers will have to pick up their work."

Planning by Ministry of Health staff was important during the recent swine flu epidemic, he said.

The Green Party said the changes were not as bad as some of those recommended by the ministerial review group.

"Hopefully this will mean the health system will not return to the destructive days of perpetual restructuring," MP Kevin Hauge said.

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said the change would benefit Maori, as many of its people had died before getting surgery.

"Any change aimed at providing better, sooner and more convenient services to patients has to be good for Maori, or at least a step up from the service the have been given in the past," Mrs Turia, also Maori Party co-leader, said.

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