Waiting for Superman (4/10)
In a surprise move that has shocked many in the health field, John Key announced today that they would be trialing charter hospitals in South Auckland and East Christchurch after further discussions with John Banks.
Private companies would be able to apply for public funds to open hospitals that would be expected to meet certain targets in return for greater autonomy.
“Our hospitals aren’t doing well enough. Frankly some of them are failing.” Charter hospitals “will allow alternative health providers to compete with existing hospitals for patients and funding where health under achievement is most entrenched.” Mr. Key said.
Under the deal with ACT, community, religious or ethnic groups, or private companies, will be allowed to operate state-funded charter hospitals.
“I don’t think the New Zealand voters are going to be up in arms because in a couple of communities in New Zealand we give some new model a go.
“If those patients don’t want to go there, they’ll be free to go to the existing hospitals.”
Key said “more often than not” the ill had objectives that some in the health sector were opposed to.
“That doesn’t mean just because they are opposed, they are in line with what the New Zealand unwell want.”
John Banks was also not impressed by criticism “far too many of our people have been let down by the traditional health care provided in this country”.
“We can do better and I want to engage them and I want them to embrace change that is well overdue.”
A traditional health system works for most but fails too many, he says.
“I want people to be healthy, not sick and unless we change that attitude then this country is going nowhere.”
A spokesperson for a doctors’ union said that the idea that doctors didn’t want their patients to be healthy was “too ridiculous for words”.
John Key stated that some hospitals had simply failed their patients. “Some hospitals appear to accept a lower life expectancy for their patients, and higher rates of heart disease and diabetes. Other hospitals are doing very well with these problems.” While Mr. Key wouldn’t be drawn on specifics he indicated that the East Cape, Northland and parts of Auckland were areas with failing hospitals.
“Doctors will tell you that there are socio-economic factors involved, and long-standing historical issues in their communities to overcome, but we’re tired of hearing excuses. You can look outside the doctor’s surgery if you like, but why is that some people come out of hospital better, and some people don’t? There are many possible answers, but the key is the doctor in the room with the patient. They need to be held accountable for their actions, and compared to other doctors nationally. Doctors who can’t improve health outcomes for their patients need to be moved on.”
When asked about repeated criticism from health experts, Mr Key had this to say:
“Frankly doctor and nurse unions are vested interests who want to maintain the status quo, but we all know that a good doctor makes all the difference, and that bad doctors exist. We need to root out the bad doctors, and increase accountability. I’m not interested in the socio-economic background of the patient, we need to have high expectations and set high targets. I want to see life expectancy at birth for all groups in New Zealand raised to 75 by 2016, and the rates of heart disease and diabetes at the same rate for all sections of our community. Any hospital that fails to improve its targets each year will be put on a warning. If results don’t improve then jobs will be lost, and ultimately hospitals will be closed.”
Interest has already been expressed by different groups around the country. Some highly-skilled doctors appear to enthusiastic about leaving the public system and setting up their own hospitals that may attract significant private funding in addition to taking money from the public purse, but other groups less often associated with health are already preparing proposals. These groups include Transcendental Meditation New Zealand, The Chinese Association of Acupuncturists, the NZRFU and Destiny Church.
When we approached the NZRFU their spokesman simply stated that the Rugby Union in New Zealand had a long history of promoting good health and pride in the country, and was looking for positive ways to expand its brand. The Destiny Church would did not respond to our requests for an interview.
Sources close to Mr. Banks report that an entire charter programme is being considered across a broad spectrum of areas. Mr. Banks is enthusiastic about the idea of charter police stations. “Banksie thinks that some cops in some stations just sit aound making excuses for the crime in their areas, and they need to be sorted out.” Private police forces would presumably have to meet tough targets, but would have greater autonomy and be less restricted by the UN Declaration of Human Rights or the Crimes Act. Apparently having heavily-armed, unconstrained private police forces roaming the streets of high crime areas is also part of the government’s plan for addressing poverty.