The newly appointed members to the boards of the interim entities the Māori Health Authority and Health New Zealand have met virtually for their induction and introduction to the health reform programme. The induction was held on 6–7 October.

Health New Zealand will be the country's largest employer, bringing together the country's 20 DHBs, a workforce of about 80,000, an annual operating budget of $20 billion and an asset base of about $24 billion. 

The Māori Health Authority will work alongside Health New Zealand with a joint role in developing system plans, shaping hospital and specialist services, and co-commissioning for primary and community services.  The Māori Health Authority will have its own budget to directly commission services and support the development of Māori providers and workforce to improve Māori health outcomes.  It will also work alongside the Ministry of Health in developing strategies and policies that work for Māori. 

The two-day induction offered the new boards an opportunity to get to know each other and spend some virtual time together two weeks after the announcement of appointments.

Members were also able to meet many of the people involved in the reform programme and get an in-depth understanding of the ambitious transformation underway to achieve the future health system envisioned in the reform.  

"It was great to get the two boards together, even if on screen, and with the people from the Transition Unit who have been working so hard to progress the reform. There is a genuine sense of the importance and magnitude of the task, equalled by determination and confidence that we can deliver health equity in a globally best practice highly efficient health system," says Rob Campbell, newly appointed Chair of Health New Zealand.

"Our induction, and the new boards coming together for the first time has set the platform for a Te Tiriti based partnership which is overtly committed to improving the wellbeing of Māori as tangata whenua and supporting all New Zealanders, as tangata tiriti. This is a unique moment in our country’s health system history that signals a never before seen opportunity to invest in services and solutions that work for tangata whenua," say Sharon Shea and Tipa Mahuta, newly appointed co-Chairs of the Māori Health Authority.

"Our Waka will be balanced by a commitment to Te Tiriti and equity. Let our whānau and communities be our guide," adds Tipa.

Both Minister Little and Minister Henare joined the board members at the start of day one to outline expectations, acknowledging that the Chairs and members will be vital in successfully transforming New Zealand’s health system to be fairer, more equitable and more sustainable.

"Ministers Little and Henare set out clear objectives and expectations, so we have no doubts on the direction they need us to take, and now it’s up to us to get the work done," says Rob.

Much of the first day of the induction focused on the 'why' with a number of people from the Transition Unit, the Ministry of Health and external organisations providing an overview of the challenges facing the health system, and outlining views from those traditionally underserved by the system, including Māori, Pasifika and disabled peoples.

The focus then moved to the 'how', providing the boards a good overview of the multiple workstreams already underway to plan, design and establish the path forward for the reform programme. 

"Working alongside the Māori Health Authority is an exciting and vital dimension. We are committed to the same equitable outcomes and giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi in our health system," says Rob.

 "We are all very aware that healthy lives in healthy communities do not happen on screens, on paper or in offices. They happen through what health workers do every day together with the people they engage with. Health New Zealand is here to make that work more empowered, more equitable and more effective by removing obstacles and providing the resources needed."

Both boards are now establishing their meeting schedules, with formal meetings to be held soon. While an official formal welcome is anticipated, a date and location for this event has not yet been finalised, acknowledging the changing nature of the COVID-19 situation and limitations on travel.

Boards have prioritised progressing the recruitment of the interim chief executives for the Māori Health Authority and Health New Zealand, with appointments expected to be announced before the end of the year.