General surgeon Adrian Secker performing one of the increasing number of theatre operations at Nelson Hospital last week. Photo: Sinead Ogilvie.

DHB presents plan for the future

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Nelson Marlborough District Health Board held its first public meeting to discuss the results of an needs analysis and its health service plan and while the reaction was mainly positive, there were some concerns from members of the public.

Concerns over unmet surgical needs, fluoridation, health disparities and consumers wanting to be more involved in health planning were all raised.

Around 80 people attended the Nelson meeting, which NMDHB chair Jenny Black says indicates that the public want to be involved in the future planning of our health services.

“There were passionate and informed people present who want to engage and we are keen to hear what they have to say,” she says. “This is a once in a generation chance for the public to be proactively involved in the future of their health service, and influence our future investments in facilities, IT, workforce and service development.

“It will affect most of the people here today when we are in our old age and heavily reliant on health services. Plus we are making sure we have the infrastructure for our young people and for our whole population moving forward. So we need to get it right.”

At yesterday’s meeting Andrew Lesperance, general manager for strategy, planning and alliance support, began by sharing the data from the Health Needs Assessment. The assessment covers an abundance of information including demographics, life expectancy, risk factors, causes, access to primary health care and emergency department and comparisons with the national average.

Lesperence spoke about the population statistics and health statistics for Nelson Marlborough community, where the challenges are and how the Board has interpreted those challenges into strategic priorities.

NMDHB chief executive Chris Fleming then presented the draft Nelson Marlborough Health Services Plan based on the findings of the HNA.

“We are the current custodians of the health service, but it will be future generations who will reap the benefits, or suffer the consequences of the decisions we make now about how we configure the infrastructure that’s going to serve our community,” he says. “Leaving services as they are is not an option as we simply cannot afford to grow infrastructure and services to meet the population demands over the next 20 years. We must invest more in health promotion and prevention strategies, create new and innovative primary and community services, and target secondary services with staff working at the top of their scopes of practice”.

“We are currently on a decision making pathway where we need to make some significant investment decisions within the next 12 months. Both in how much are we going to invest in bricks and mortar, and how much are we going to invest in Information Technology or IT.

“We also need to identify what the priorities are in our workforce planning and what we’re going to invest discretionary funds in.”

Fleming stressed to the meeting that this is only part of the plan because while it identifies a need to have a well developed primary and community strategy, this was still to be developed with our primary and community partners.

Concern was raised by a group of between 15 to 20 people with respect to fluoride. Fleming said that while this is an identified priority for the NMDHB, it is presently a local authority responsibility, and a specific community consultation process on this issue would be required to consider this in more depth.

He said the overall feedback from the meeting will be reviewed and will help formulate future directions, and will ‘lead to more discussion about the services we provide.’

Meetings are being held in Nelson, Blenheim, Murchison, Golden Bay and Motueka. Information on dates and times can be found at http://www.nmdhb.govt.nz/communityengagement.aspx