Health jobs on the line in overhaul
By RUTH HILL - The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 18/08/2009

Hundreds of health sector jobs could be affected in a major overhaul of the Health Ministry and health board bureaucracy.

Prime Minister John Key and Health Minister Tony Ryall have signalled redundancies are likely following a ministerial review on slashing bureaucracy in the health sector but both declined to speculate on potential numbers affected.

The report, which paints a bleak picture of a public health system struggling with debt and regional inequities, recommends creating a new national health board to oversee district health boards and restricting the Health Ministry to a policy and monitoring role.

"Bureaucracy, waste and inefficiencies must be reduced and resources moved to the front line as spending growth slows," the report says. The ministry employs about 1440 fulltime staff.

Mr Key said yesterday that the restructuring did not breach pre-election promises of no major health restructurings because it focused on delivering better outcomes.

"There will still be 21 DHBs there will be a high degree of enforced collaboration in back office areas, but in principle we're still honouring our commitment.

"We absolutely are going to need to deliver greater efficiency and productivity in the health sector and therefore need to take seriously suggestions that could deliver that, including bulked up purchasing arrangements for IT and payroll and the like."

He was unable to put a number on job losses. "There's always consolidation, there's attrition."

Mr Ryall said the report found "potentially fewer" staff would be needed.

Capital and Coast District Health Board member and public health physician Virginia Hope one of eight people on the ministerial review group said the recommendations had "some implications" for the ministry's staffing levels but she was unable to say how many jobs could be affected.

"No-one has those sort of operational details as yet, but the minister has said funding for the sector won't be cut. Potentially there will be some redistribution of funding.

"We have a lot of repetition and duplication around the country and that can only hurt outcomes for patients."

For instance, many health boards were unable to share radiology information, which meant patients transferred for treatment needed repeat X-rays.

More work would be needed to ensure payroll, information technology and workforce planning were "compatible".

Public Service Association national secretary Richard Wagstaff said doctors, nurses, radiotherapists and other clinical workers could not do their jobs without the support of clerical and administrative staff.

"We must ensure that clinical staff don't end up having to do the administrative work required to run our public hospitals instead of being free to focus on their patients."
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Director-General of Health Stephen McKernan, who is also a member of the ministerial review group, declined to comment but said the ministry was advising Mr Ryall on the recommendations.

District Health Board New Zealand chairman Peter Glensor, who also chairs Hutt Valley DHB, said it would take a couple of months for boards to form an official response to the report.

From here.