New Zealander of the Year Dr Lance O'Sullivan wants ministerial role

Northland doctor and New Zealander of the year Dr Lance O'Sullivan wants to be Health Minister after the 2020 election - and he would implement major changes.

Speaking on The AM Show on Wednesday, he divulged the aspiration alongside his previously announced decision to stand for the Māori Party in 2020.

He said he would ban tobacco on his first day in office.

On day two he would place a freeze on health spending over five years - he says there is enough money in the health system.

"With $16 billion a year spent, and with an $888 million increase this year, we cannot just keep increasing the spend.

"We have to use what we have smarter. I think we waste about $2-3 billion a year on inefficiencies."

While New Zealand has a world-class health system, he said, it can do much better.

"These inefficiencies are driven by not adopting new models of care. As Health Minister I would be looking to contract people who deliver care that can provide better outcomes for more people, for less cost."

The overhaul he plans to implement includes looking at those currently occupying certain roles within the health system.

"It might even impact on current jobs and roles - either transitioned to someone else or actually, even, they go.

"We need a transformational change.  We can't tinker around the edges. If we want to future proof our health system for 2-3 decades we have to act now, and it has to be bold."

He wouldn't ask people to vote for him if it were a continuation of the "same old same old".

In Northland, one problem is access to care, he said.

Despite there being a "good health system, a great system in places", he said many people don't get access to care, for different reasons. 

"Some of that has significant and critical outcomes. Some of it's just a convenience thing - some of us are really busy and we want access to care in a smarter way, so digital health services are the way of the future.

"I'll be doing that in the next three years - to show that it can be done."

Dr O'Sullivan is the founder of iMOKO, a digital healthcare programme which makes healthcare more accessible to New Zealanders.

His decision to stand for the Māori Party in the next election was a natural fit, he said.

"I align with them in terms of values.

"It's a party borne out of protest but is moving into a movement of progress".

Children and young people always win his vote, he said, and his central focus would be on children, better access to health, education, and homes.

"We should be doing things not because they're easy, but because they're hard.

"We don't prepare young people - we should be looking at 15, 16,17 year olds and preparing them to be discerning voters, which is what I'll be doing in the next three years."