Government's new health system gives 'bigger voice' to rural communities

The new health system may help save similar lives to Blair Vining's - he had to wait two months for an urgent appointment after being told he was dying from bowel cancer.

The Government on Wednesday announced their plans to create a new organisation, Health NZ, to replace the 20 DHBs to enable simplicity and consistent healthcare across New Zealand.

Blair Vining - a cancer advocate - died in October 2019.

The Southlander didn't have access to the care he needed because of where he lived. Vining fought for a fairer health system until his final days.

"Blair was really quite disturbed about the fact that we paid 20 different CEOs to run 20 different health boards," his wife Melissa Vining told Newshub.

Eighteen months after his death, New Zealand's health system has had a major overhaul.

Melissa is pleased the Government acknowledged the inequities but believes the reform doesn't go far enough. 

"I'm concerned that there's no immediate plan to address long delays or cancer care, that pressure in ED and also that further pressure in people being delayed or going without surgeries," Melissa said.

That's what inspired Blair's legacy - the soon-to-be constructed Southland Charity Hospital.

It hopes to improve the postcode lottery.

"There should not be this difference between different regions in access to simple healthcare," Dr Phil Bagshaw says.

Dunedin GP Dr Carol Atwood believes it could be a win for small-town New Zealand.

"It potentially has the opportunity for rural communities to have a much bigger voice in what happens in their own area."

However, Dr Bagshaw says the Government's announcement left one major question unanswered.

"I think the main issue is that it's short on certain things, particularly on how they're going to pay for all this stuff."

Southern DHB CEO Chris Fleming says the announcement "signals a new way of working".

But he warned that "there are fundamentals that do not change" and there will "need to be the right infrastructure to support and enhance" care in the south.

The new entities will be formed in July next year.