23 Nov 2009

DHBs not yet meeting health objectives - minister

8:59 pm on 23 November 2009

Health Minister Tony Ryall says district health boards have a lot of work to do to meet the Government's major health objectives.

The minister has published the first quarterly results on how each DHB is meeting the Government's six key health targets.

Information released on Monday covers stays in hospital emergency departments, access to elective surgery, cancer treatment, immunisation, smoking and diabetes, and cardiovascular services.

Several district health boards in areas with high Maori populations face a major challenge to lift immunisation rates among young children.

Half of all DHBs are meeting the goal of 85% of two-year-olds being fully immunised by July 2010, but Rotorua's Lakes DHB is at the bottom on 65% and Bay of Plenty, Northland, Waikato and Tairawhiti are also well below the target.

Improved access to elective surgery

Other details show improvements in access to elective surgery and shorter waits for cancer treatment.

The ministry's expert on emergency departments says they are also making progress on their targets, but it will take up to two years to achieve overall improvement on what is a complex issue for hospitals.

Mr Ryall says DHBs still have much work to do to meet health objectives and the results are being published to make them accountable.

"Let's face it, there are still too many people waiting too long in emergency departments and there are some people who are not getting their cancer treatment within six weeks, and there are a lot of areas where immunisation could be improved."

Mr Ryall says low immunisation rates for children remain a problem in some areas - often those with high Maori populations. A health select committee will inquire into how rates of immunisation in communities can be lifted.

Gains being made with national register - adviser

Lakes DHB covers Rotorua, Taupo, Turangi and Mangakino and serves 100,000 people. Chief executive Cathy Cooney says children are getting immunised, but not by the age of two and the board is working with primary health groups to lift its performance.

The Ministry of Health's chief adviser for child and youth health, Dr Pat Tuohy, says it has been a target for a decade and gains are just now starting to be made with a national immunisation register.

Dr Tuohy says it comes down to chasing parents and taking every opportunity to immunise children.