Trust must return to Public Health System

Issue 366 April 1, 2017 – 

Our front-page story on the public health system in Hamilton makes depressing reading, to say the least. Save for the government and its officials, most others, including some General Practitioners, patients and their families have spoken about the inadequacy of the services, worse, inability of the people to render services.

These do not commensurate public health practices of an advanced country.

Problem of Attitude

Far from the cries of reduced funding, under-resourced and over-worked staff, the major problem appears to be one of attitude or the lack of it in rendering medical service. Nurses and midwives seem to be in command in the Waikato region in the absence of doctors and other people with higher qualifications and experience.

The Code of Ethics published by the ‘New Zealand Medical Journal’ states that almost everything that a public health worker does, affects the autonomy of individuals, from quarantining infectious people, limiting supply of tobacco to adults or adding fluoride to water supplies.

Relationships and trust

An important element of a functional relationship between a patient and a service provider is trust. The New Zealand Medical Council standard on medical practice in New Zealand expects the latter to establish and maintain trust with patients. Relationships based on openness, trust and good communication will enable the medical practitioner to work in partnership with patients to address their individual needs.

In addressing ‘Challenges and Opportunities,’ the Strategy of the Health Ministry is aimed at constantly increasing the quality of delivery.

It says, “New Zealanders’ needs and expectations are themselves changing. These changes are happening not only because the population is ageing but also because it is becoming more ethnically diverse. In Auckland, for instance, around 39% of residents were born overseas; Asian populations are growing the fastest and now represent almost one in four people living in Auckland.”

Working together

In summary, the Ministry Note concludes saying, “Our system may be functioning well enough today, but we cannot guarantee that it will be tomorrow. This strategy provides an opportunity to improve our health system and wider social services, so that in the future we are able to support better the health and wellness of New Zealanders. A key to our success in making these improvements will be our ability to work together.”

The Ministry clearly sees a partnership between the patient and the service provider, which clearly needs to improve in the Waikato region.

We have carried the concern of the people to the health officials in Waikato, the central government and politicians. We await their response to keep you informed.

Trust is a word that cannot be over-emphasised in any relationship, least of all in public health.

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