Staff may have seen my second ‘Coffee with the CEO’ event advertised in Daily Dose recently. This was held at Manukau SuperClinic last week and Deputy CEO Ron Pearson was also on hand to provide an update on the Manukau Health Park development. I really want to thank the staff who took the time to come along. It was great to meet you all and hear your questions, suggestions and other thoughts in person.
The value of these staff events became clear during the meeting when someone in the group made a suggestion for the health park which simply hadn’t occurred to either Ron or myself. Their idea, which was just like a lightbulb going on in my head, was to include a crèche. Typically as men, Ron and I hadn’t ever thought of this but it really seems to make a lot of sense. Not only do many SuperClinic and Surgery Centre staff have children, but so too do our patients. And I gather that many patients either bring their children along to their appointments or don’t turn up at all if they don’t have a babysitter. One of our big problems at the SuperClinic is our DNA rate, when patients don’t show up for their appointment. We’ve tried a range of initiatives to address this but we haven’t yet reduced our DNA rate as much as we need to. Establishing an onsite crèche would remove one of the barriers for patients and could really bring our DNA rate down. Thanks to the staff member who put forward this great suggestion. I’m already following it up and making sure it’s included in our site development plans.
My second ‘lightbulb’ moment of that day came when I joined some public health nurses on a home visit to a local family. The family were clearly a devoted and loving group, and I was truly humbled when they gave me a lei on my arrival. Sadly, they also encapsulated for me many of the challenges we face as a system. They have a state house but because of the poor quality of the accommodation, the children and their parents actually live in just one room. This winter, one child got sick and infected other members of the family. The end result? The kids haven’t been to school and the parents haven’t been to work. They’ve got caught in a trap and it made me feel very frustrated. It wouldn’t take much to make a big difference to this family and yet the system is letting them down.
One of our clear roles and responsibilities is to apply the ‘granny test’ to all that we do. If you haven’t already heard me talk about it, this test is a way of determining the quality of our care by asking whether we’d be happy for our own granny to receive it. In this case, we and other services don’t always pass the test. But we have the power and responsibility to do something about it. I firmly believe that all of us have a responsibility to make sure people get the services they require. With the resources we have available, we can and should do a lot better. The impact we could have would be dramatic.
Much of the solution lies in better coordinating services. Health and social services have got ever more complicated over the last few years but we’re all cogs in a big machine and sometimes it’s important to step back and see what we can to do unscramble services for families like this. At the recent launch of the Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme, I spoke with Associate Minister of Health, Tariana Turia, about precisely this issue. In that instance, she agreed that the best key to eradicating rheumatic fever is actually to work together to improve housing.
This philosophy of co-ordination and working holistically is exactly what Whaanau Ora is all about. As you may have read in the New Zealand Herald recently, we’re already involved in plans to improve the delivery of services to families like the one I visited. We are currently working with Tainui on a business case to establish a large Whaanau Ora Centre on Browns Road as part of the Manukau Health Park site. This centre, construction of which we hope will start next year, will be a hub for providing more coordinated, ‘wrap-around’ services for families. It will be the ultimate one-stop shop which will co-locate medical and social services, including some provided by CMDHB. It will also be a catalyst for us to look critically across the district at the development of holistic services which will improve the experience of our families and whaanau. It’s an exciting development and one I’m very keen to progress as part of our commitment to families throughout Counties Manukau.