Hamish Rutherford from NZME talks to Dr Gregor Coster – Dean of the Faculty of Health Victoria University, one of the panellists taking part in HealthCentral ChalkTalks’ panel discussion on the “Future of New Zealand’s Healthcare – how do we achieve a more productive, sustainable and equitable health system.”

Hamish: Are there any simple solutions to the problems in the healthcare sector?

Dr Gregor Coster: Well as we know from the report of the Health and Disability Review there are some very successful DHB’s and we’ve got a very good health system in New Zealand but there are some challenges. In terms of a single bullet to kind of fix all of New Zealand’s health system challenges, no, there isn’t a single bullet. We’ve got things that we can do in providing better leadership across the sector – better leadership in DHB’s improving management skills, we can do a lot working with our senior doctors and our nurses, and all the other health professionals – so not a single thing is the bullet but plenty of opportunity to do better.

Hamish: When you think about the better performing DHB’s and the less well performing DHB’s what are the main problems? Is it just a shortage of resources or a difficulty of attracting staff or is it a wider leadership issue?

Dr Gregor Coster: Well there are a couple of issues. The first is that the health system has not funded up the DHB’s sufficiently and that’s led to deficits that have increased in the last couple of years so that’s a key issue that needs exploring. The DHB’s that do well are those that have good leadership where they’ve got good relationships with senior doctors and the nurses and where the teams pull together under excellent leadership.

Hamish: It’s been quite well publicised that we’ve got a billion dollar of deficits across the DHB system is that just a sign simply of poor funding or of deeper problems?

Dr Gregor Coster: I think it is actually a funding issue. We know that at the end of June this year the DHB’s had a deficit of $532 million across all of the DHB’s and they were all in deficit but you add into that another $600 million of wage round increases that are coming we do have a health system that’s seriously underfunded and I hope that Government will address this.

Hamish: You’ve seen the report that came out in September – are you hopeful of what will come out of the final report?

Dr Gregor Coster: It’s an interesting report. Its 312 pages long. It makes a great read. It’s a very good summary of where the health system is at. I think they understand the issues. The real challenge for the review will be figuring out what recommendations they’re going to put forward to Government and then of course the Ministry and Government will have to sit down together and decide what things are achievable within available funding. So yes, a great report – I hope something good comes out of it.

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