A lot to be thankful for

When I think about the challenges facing us as a health organisation, two well-known quotes spring to mind. The first from Walt Disney: “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” and my personal favourite, by the creator of Sherlock Holmes “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

In the blog today, I’m going to reflect on what can be achieved when we strive for the best, push through the barriers and open ourselves up to the opportunities that come our way.

They say an organisation is only as strong as its people, and I was reminded of this at our Diversity Ball, when over 700 people came together to enjoy each other’s company and have fun. It was an amazing night and a great opportunity to celebrate the many countries, cultures and backgrounds that make up Team Counties. It’s this diversity that is our strength and makes us who we are. As I looked around the room, I was reminded of what an amazing organisation we have and how potent a force Team Counties is when people come together.

Last week I was speaking to the Counties Manukau Health Board about our achievements from the past financial year, which ended in June. Irrespective of the issues we have had to face these past few years, this is an organisation that has risen to every challenge. As a result we finished the year in the strongest financial position, as a DHB in NZ and delivered a $3 million surplus, and that’s on top of opening the new Harley Gray Building – a major capital development.

I put this down to the decision we made a couple of years ago, that instead of taking a draconian or slash and burn approach, we would work more smartly and look at innovative ways of taking waste out of the system. This approach has paid dividends, because it’s meant we have remained in control of our environment, with a focus on continuing improvement. I’d like to acknowledge Pauline Hanna,who has led the Financial Sustainability Workstream, which has been a stunning success.

All of this gives us an incredibly strong platform for the future. And of course a very important part of how we support this platform is the work we are doing with Project SWIFT (System Wide Integration For Transformation).   At my coffee with the CEO last week I spoke about SWIFT, and its aim to revolutionise how we provide health care services, with the support of modern information and communications technology (ICT). First of all it’s important to point out that this isn’t just an IT Project – in fact before technology even comes into the picture, SWIFT will help us identify what we need to change, across the entire health system in order to modernise our health system and provide improved care to people in our community.

SWIFT will address 4 main issues:

  1. How we use IT to become more efficient – for example improving our booking process.
  2. How we use IT to connect the various moveable parts of the health system, so that the hospital, GP, NGO, community team, pharmacist and the patient are all connected, in a way where they can share information. We can’t propose to have an integrated health system unless we have an integrated IT system to support it.
  3. How we use data to better plan for and design improved services for our growing population. How do we make sure we build, develop and deliver the right services in the right place at the right volume?
  4. How we use emerging technologies, like smart phones and apps so patients can better manage their care at home.

While we have achieved a lot this financial year, it’s stunning to be a part of an organisation that is so committed and so restless to push itself further. It’s that team counties spirit that is so central to realising our vision to be the best.



Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

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