Insights from the our new Minister

12 December 2017

Jim Green

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to hear from our new Minister of Health, David Clark, as he attended the national DHBs Chairs and Chief Executives meeting in Wellington. The Minister has previously met with the Chairs and used the opportunity of the joint meeting to introduce himself to the Chief Executives, and expand further on the government’s health priorities.

First of all Minister Clark talked about his upbringing, experience in his early years and eventual move into parliament. He has had a long interest in health and actively sought out the Minister of Health role in the new government. He sees himself as a “patient advocate” and will be seeking out advice across the sector and in communities to inform the decisions he and the government need to make.

Minister Clark at the outset made particular note of his appreciation for the excellent work that has and is being done across the health sector, under difficult conditions. The government has a programme to invest more in health, particularly in primary care, and a range of initiatives out of the coalition agreement is in the process of being formed up – such as lowering the cost of access to primary care, both in Very Low-Cost Access practices – as in all Tairāwhiti practices – and for people with Community Services Cards. These actions, once developed and costed (Minister Clark is also an Associate Minister of Finance!), are being prepared for consideration as part of Budget 2018.

There are however two health items in the government’s 100 Day plan – which is set to be completed by February 4. These are set up of the inquiry into Mental Health, and the legalisation of Medicinal Cannabis.

The Mental Health Inquiry will have broad brief – from the antecedents of mental ill-health through to services for people. The draft Terms of Reference have been developed and consideration is being given to the members of the inquiry governance group. The legalisation of Medical Cannabis has a series of options on how the legalisation can be affected. If legislation is required it is proposed that it be passed before 4 February.

Of particular interest for us is that the Minister confirmed again that he intends visiting all DHBs very early in his time, having already begun the visits but realistic that he will need to use the early part of 2018 to get to all.

We all look forward to hearing more on the government’s programme, possibly with more announcements early in 2018.

E rua wiki ki te Kirihimete!