Throwing good money after bad

It’s about time the New Zealand taxpayer saw some action on the dreadful state of the tottering health edifice. We can’t afford to pay medical staff enough to keep them in this country, but we can shell out tens of millions (hundreds?) on exponentially increasing health bureaucracy.

It’s crazy.

We need answers, results and accountability. Information Technology is supposed to make life easier for bureaucrats, instead it just produces more and more paper which nobody reads and an increasing spiral of administrative complexity. More and more managers of managers. Less and less doctors and nurses. It’s a sorry state of affairs when we’re spending more money on health than ever before, but our health services seem to be in an ever-decreasing spiral of effectiveness.

The problem isn’t what we’re spending, it’s how we’re spending it. What has changed in the system that requires vastly increased expenditure on non-medical staff and services? If those changes haven’t resulted in improved services and cost effectiveness why were they made and, more importantly, why are we stuck with them?

Michael, I suspect you got it right for once

Can’t be wrong all the time.

Wanganui mayor, Michael Laws, had this to say a while back regarding the Whanganui DHB:

“My initial inclination is that one administrative entity that looked after the west coast of the North Island – from Levin to New Plymouth and included both Wanganui and Palmerston North – would be preferable to the current hodgepodge.”

Sounds good to me. Now all he has to do is stop abusing his fellow DHB members, get them to co-operate and start getting stuff done as he did with the City Council; at least during his first term. Maybe he can’t cope with not being numero uno on the Board.

There is no need for Whanganui Hospital to provide full services if a combined alternative could, as it should, result in more bang for the buck. If you’re living in Greater Auckland you may well have to travel far greater distances (and through worse traffic) to receive treatment than you would if you were to travel from Wanganui to Palmerston North.

Case in point

John de Waal A few years ago I cut off the end my thumb by guillotining it in a folding trailer towbar. Yes, it hurt. At the time I was living in Whangaparaoa on the Hibiscus Coast. The nearest hospital was North Shore, but the nearest place where I’d have received full treatment was Middlemore in Otahuhu. By the time I got there and waited a day or two for treatment my thumb would have been dog tucker. Maybe literally.

By amazing good fortune, I hit the jackpot at my Red Beach local medical centre. A plastic surgeon, Dr John de Waal, was visiting to provide staff training. That’s John on the right. Give him a ring if you need a half-life refit. A lateral thinker and a nice bloke. Thanks John :o)

He sewed my thumb back together as a practical demo for the staff. Clever work – drilled holes in the reinserted thumbnail to serve as a splint to sew the mangled flesh back together. Ten years on it’s almost as good as new. If it hadn’t been for that happy coincidence I’d have been unable to carry on working as a marine engineer. I’d have been another ACC statistic on a permanent disability benefit.

So what’s your point I hear you cry?

With our present setup, unless you live very close to a major hospital you can’t expect close-to-home Rolls-Royce treatment in any area of medicine anywhere in this country. If something bad happens to you you can’t expect treatment around the corner or a helicopter in 5 minutes. The cookie jar is not bottomless. Unless we rebuild the whole tottering edifice from the ground up, you can’t expect satisfactory treatment anywhere. Waiting lists for emergency treatment are, on many occasions, as unsatisfactory as waiting lists for surgery. Yet again we need to start with a clean slate. This time with more input from the medical folk, less from the bean-counters and the pedlars of high tech baubles. It’s a bloody mess.