Opening of North Shore Hospital Emergency Department and Acute Admission UnitHealth
I am delighted to have been invited to the official opening of this new integrated Emergency Department and Acute Assessment Department.
All those involved in some way in this project know just how much planning and hard work it has taken, but you can all feel a great sense of pride in what you have achieved.
This new facility brings together the emergency and acute assessment wings, includes an expanded resuscitation and monitoring area, a designated paediatric assessment, new waiting and bereavement areas, and better access in terms of layout.
The new child-friendly environment in the paediatric area is a real strength. I was really pleased to learn about Young Variety’s contribution of toys, murals, furnishings etc from funds raised during the premier of Pearl Harbour.
That gift is like a symbolic Christmas present for the people of North Shore and the wider Waitemata, although we would all prefer there was no need for a facility like this, and in an ideal world its first patients wouldn’t be people with festive seasons marred by mishap or tragedy.
We all know, however, that shortly this place will be full of people needing help. These tranquil, relaxed moments provide simply a short breathing space between the busy days of construction and the facility’s normal working life that is about to begin.
At this time of year it also seems appropriate to reflect on what has happened since last Christmas.
None of us can forget the surreal images and horror of September 11. The events that day and since have changed the world permanently and sadly.
Today, however, it is more appropriate to talk about the good things that have been achieved in the past 12 months. There always seems to be more bad news about health than good news, but in terms of the New Zealand public health service there have been many achievements to feel happy about during 2001.
Possibly the biggest single achievement has been the successful introduction of elected district health boards. As more and more responsibilities are devolved to the boards, health decision-makers will become more accountable at a local level for their decisions. I want to congratulate those new members who have been elected, and to thank those who have served Waitemata in the past.
Greater community involvement in decision-making will play a crucial role in reinforcing the understanding that no government can meet all New Zealanders’ expectations about health.
New Zealand is a relatively low-income country compared to some OECD members. We need to be careful about comparing ourselves to Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, United States and the like. These nations have far richer societies than ours, and can support, in some areas, more elaborate health systems than we can.
While it is understandable New Zealanders expect to receive a similar level of care to that available in richer countries, we all know what a struggle it is to meet health expectations.
In that respect, I want to refer briefly to another major achievement for 2001, the securing of guaranteed extra funding over a three-year period from 2002-03.
My announcement last week of almost $3 billion extra in health spending over the next three years was significant not so much for the amount of money --- though that was certainly significant --- but for the fact a guaranteed funding path has been provided three years in advance. This is unprecedented in New Zealand on such a comprehensive scale.
The funding path means that Waitemata DHB, for example, can plan with certainty its future programmes and health and disability services. The benefit of that should be immediately apparent. In the past boards have had to live hand-to-mouth each year, not sure what their funding will be for the next year.
This year has also seen the launch of a number of strategic documents setting out pathways for the future of the public health system. These documents are aligned to the New Zealand Health Strategy I released in December last year.
The Primary Health Care Strategy was released in February and the subsequent minimum requirements for Primary Health Organisations were released last month.
The new primary health care structure will have a greater focus on prevention and reducing barriers to accessing primary care services. Soon I will be announcing details of how implementation of the Primary Health Care Strategy will occur as part of health’s new funding package.
The Palliative Care Strategy was also released in February to underscore our commitment to the principle that New Zealanders are entitled to dignity, respect and comfort at the end of their lives.
The New Zealand Disability Strategy, launched in April, outlines 15 objectives in areas such as human rights, social attitudes, education and employment, recreation and lifestyle, information, public services and support systems. Eleven departments and agencies are in developing implementation plans for this strategy.
In September a draft Health of Older People Strategy was released. The final version of the draft Mäori Health Strategy should be launched early next year, and I recently launched the first phase of the Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy.
There has also been significant activity this year in terms of developing a diabetes research strategy and an integrated approach to tackling infectious diseases, preparing an action plan on public health, and promoting the subsidised nicotine replacement therapy programme.
That all adds up to many strategies and plans, but I emphasise they are not there just for the sake of it. I would not have persuaded my cabinet colleagues to inject an extra $3 billion into health spending if there were not health priorities and performance measures to justify the new money. We cannot plan properly if we don’t know exactly what we want to achieve.
The theme of achievements for 2001 takes me back full circle to this new facility.
It has been a significant year for the health sector in Auckland because this facility is just one of a number of projects that are under way or about to get under way in the Auckland area. They are collectively valued at about half a billion dollars.
There will be a new medical day unit and a fully-integrated maternity service at this hospital in the next 12-18 months, and you will probably also be aware that design work is under way on other projects at North Shore Hospital for construction during 2002/03. These future projects include new perioperative facilities, ambulatory care facilities, acute therapy services and an education centre.
The changes are part of the Waitemata’s Orion Programme, a $120 million five-year construction programme that began in March 2000.
The main features of the Orion Programme are, of course, the redesigning and upgrading of North Shore Hospital, building a sub-district hospital at Waitakere, and upgrading mental health facilities in North and West Auckland.
The extent of building and development in the health sector in Auckland generally reflects the fact that the larger urban area continues to be fast-growing and rapidly-changing.
During the year I have attended the official opening of the new adult inpatient building at Middlemore and the official launch of the Metabolic Service at Starship Hospital, while the Prime Minister has attended the official opening of the Manukau Surgery Centre and the beginning of construction of the new facilities at Waitakere Hospital.
However, new bricks and mortar alone, great though they are for morale, are only part of the health solution, as you all well know.
Improving the health of New Zealanders involves addressing economic and social inequalities contributing to poor health, lowering barriers to accessing services, and fostering lifestyle changes that empower people to improve their own health.
The new DHB structure allows boards to explore innovative solutions to local circumstances, but it is also important for them to work together where possible. Working apart is in no one’s best interests. There does need to be a balance between devolution and the need for national and regional certainty and consistency.
Particular opportunities for cooperation exist in Auckland because of the large number of facilities in a relatively small area and the contacts and relationships in place between the three boards.
I am sure 2002 will be full of challenges, but, whatever it has in store, I know you will be celebrating the completion of further parts of the refurbishment and renovation of this hospital. I am sure this new integrated facility will meet your expectations, and thank you again for the invitation to be with you today.
This speech has been the last such formal occasion for me this year, and one of the most satisfying. I hope I can finish by wishing all of us, including me, a great Christmas and a happy New Year.