13 Oct 2008

DHB numbers under debate

10:47 am on 13 October 2008

The number of district health boards and the role of the private sector in health were key topics at a public debate in Hamilton on Sunday.

The event was part of a series being hosted by Radio New Zealand.

Politicians from most parties expressed the view that 21 district health boards is too high a number for a country the size of New Zealand.

Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton who is an Associate Minister of Health, said 21 district health boards is a lot for a population of four million and there is a case for rationalisation.

He suggested Canterbury DHB could cover the whole region along with the West Coast.

ACT Party health spokesperson Heather Roy said district health boards are a "phoney democracy" because they are instructed to put in place the Government of the day's health policy rather than to represent the local population.

Labour's health spokesperson David Cunliffe conceded there is room to improve on his party's seven year-old DHB model.

The parties said they would continue current moves to encourage greater cooperation, rather than seeking further major reform.