Despite tensions flaring over fluoride, a meeting on the direction of the region’s healthcare system was “useful” and showed the level of passion about healthcare in the community, says Nelson Marlborough DHB chief executive Chris Fleming.
More than 100 people packed a public room for the community engagement meeting hosted by Fleming, NMDHB board strategy general manager Andrew Lesperance and board chairperson Jenny Black in Nelson on Tuesday evening.
The meeting was one in a series being held around the region by the DHB to give the community a chance to hear about the strategic direction of the health board, and give them a chance to ask questions and give feedback on that direction and the health board’s priorities.
A range of issues were covered at the meeting, including current rates of obesity, smoking, child abuse, inequality for Maori and the aging demographic.
In coming years a major focus of the health board was to increase partnerships with community and primary health organisations to deal with those issues, and a focus on prevention and keeping people out of hospital would be paramount, Fleming said.
The board had three objectives, Fleming said. To improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities, support health system sustainability and lift health system performance.
This would include implementing a more district-wide service, establishing new models for primary and community health care, potentially getting some healthcare services back into the region from major centres, and undergoing a digital shift and moving online.
He said if the system was to carry on as is, Nelson and Wairua hospitals would need 140 new beds and much more funding by 2025, and that was not feasible.
The system had to adapt, and a big focus had to be on treating people in the community rather than in hospital.
Despite Fleming, Black, and Lesperance stressing the community meeting was about the strategic direction of the health board, and was not a consultation or engagement meeting on the board’s stance on water fluoridation, around 30 people turned up specifically for that topic.
Fleming said he respected that people at the meeting were passionate about keeping fluoride out of the water, and engagement on the topic would come at a later date.
“The DHB has come out and said we are supportive of fluoride, but we are aware there are different views.
“We are not confusing this discussion tonight as engagement or consultation on fluoride. It is not the DHB’s responsibility as the legislation stands,” he said.
When a member of the public asked why the health board was supporting the “false science” of the World Health Organisation on benefits of water fluoridation, Black said all talk on fluoridation would be held to the end of the meeting.
At the end of the meeting around 30 people stayed to talk to the DHB staff about the DHB’s stance, but Fleming said the staff with the appropriate knowledge were not at the meeting and engagement on the topic would be arranged later.
There will be further community engagement meetings held in Blenheim, Murchison, Golden Bay and Motueka. For more information go to http://www.nmdhb.govt.nz/communityengagement.aspx