Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Clinical swing towards health board

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Des Epp says as a small health board, Lakes has to fight hard to keep services.
Des Epp says as a small health board, Lakes has to fight hard to keep services.

A paediatrician, a GP and a radiographer/MRI technician are three of the new faces to be elected to the Lakes District Health Board - with a swing towards those with clinical experience.

Four of the seven positions up for grabs on the health board have been taken by new faces, including three with strong medical backgrounds.

Dr Johan Morreau, a paediatrician at Rotorua Hospital, has been elected to the health board for the first time.

After 30-odd years of working at the hospital, Dr Morreau said he decided to run for the board as he was starting to near the end of his clinical career.

"I have spent 30 years understanding the health needs of this community."

He believed his extensive medical knowledge would help significantly.

While his passion and career had focused around maternity, child, and youth health, Dr Morreau said that wouldn't be his sole focus on the board.

"For me I'd really like to help with a whole of system planning approach."

He said looking at the district's health needs the population of the Lakes area was getting older, so there would be a focus on the services provided for elderly and the investment in those services.

Health inequalities and looking to see what can be done to reduce the gap was also an important focus.

Dr Morreau said the makeup of the new board looked to be "very strong".

Dr Des Epp is a new face this time around but has experience serving on the board and was initially put on as a ministerial appointment.

When contacted by the Rotorua Daily Post today Dr Epp said he hadn't checked the results but presumed he must have done okay because he had received a few congratulatory messages.

"If it's going to happen it will. People either want you or they don't."

Dr Epp said four decades of experience as a GP and his previous experience on the health board was a good foundation - but so too was a recent stay in hospital following a serious illness.

Dr Epp had a liver transplant 18 months ago, three years after fracturing his lower spine. He said doctors believed the medication that he took for the spine may have affected his liver.

"Having been a patient in hospital I realised the working conditions. It wasn't that I didn't know it before but it really brought it home for me."

He said a focus for the term would be "good integration of services".

Dr Epp said as a small health board, Lakes had to fight hard to keep services.

Another expected newcomer, Janine Horton, said she was still waiting for the preliminary results to confirm her place

"I'm absolutely delighted but I'm still on tenterhooks."

Ms Horton said she was pleased with the makeup of the board.

"I think it looks excellent. I'm thrilled to be part of it."

Ms Horton said she was interested in finding out more about the decisions the board could make, and said there were some big ones coming up.

"I don't have any agendas, but I do have a clinical background. I'm very interested in the hospital - that is my background."

Christine Rankin said she was thrilled to be on the health board - following a six-year stint on the Waitemata District Health Board.

However, she said she was disappointed to be the sole Taupo representative.

She said there was a lot of very strong feeling in the Taupo and Turangi area on the level of service they got - and it was something she planned to look at.

"Sometimes you have to be realistic living in a small town but I want to be sure they get their share of the resources."

Re-elected to the health board were Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Lyall Thurston and Rob Vigor-Brown.

Ms Raukawa-Tait said she was pleased to be back as the area of health affected everyone.

She said there were several challenges ahead like pressure on the health dollar, making sure money was spent wisely and looking at improving the health disparities in the community.

Mr Thurston said he believed the board had a good mix of skills and knowledge. He said a big challenge the board would be wrestling with over the coming years was the issue of mental health, as well as the ageing population.

Mr Vigor-Brown said he would be pushing for a CT scanner in Taupo- which was part of his campaign. He said another focus, brought about by serving nationally on the perioperative mortality review committee, was to make sure Rotorua Hospital was the safest hospital it could be.

"Mental health is also a bit of a concern of mine."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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