Government Changes in Health Priorities Short Sighted
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is calling on the government to rethink its decision to cut some key areas in
health care from district health boards’ priorities. Mental health, obesity action and oral health – all areas where New
Zealand is lagging well behind internationally - are no longer among DHBs’ priorities.
In 2007, only 52 per cent of five-year-olds were caries free, ie without missing, decayed or filled teeth.
“Oral health is tremendously important to a child’s overall well-being and with statistics like these, it is hard to
understand how the government has dropped oral health from DHBs’core objectives,” said professional services manager
She also pointed out that Maori children are disproportionately represented in poor oral health statistics.
Trim also condemned the fact that mental health is no longer a DHB priority. “Over recent years there have been
countless tragedies involving mental health patients. Just last week, near tragedy was averted in a mental health unit
when a patient armed with a gun resulted in the police armed offenders squad call-out. Our members report the need for
mental health services is increasing, not decreasing. For mental health to no longer be a top DHB priority will most
certainly impact on communities, as well as individuals,” she said.
Trim was also critical of the fact improving nutrition, increasing physical activity and reducing obesity were no longer
top priorities. “These public health measures are all aimed at preventing the development of chronic conditions, which
are a considerable drain on health resources. To remove them as priorities is short-sighted and will jeopardise future
long-term health gains,” she said.
While NZNO appreciated the Minister wanted to cut unnecessary bureaucracy and reporting, and put more resources into
frontline health services, the services that have been removed as DHB priorities were all important services.
NZNO is also concerned that increasing the workload of frontline staff, without a concomitant increase in staff and
other resources, will simply increase the burden on existing nursing staff, who are already struggling with workloads.