Commissioner appointed to run the Waikato DHB. Junior doctors striking. Large numbers of cancer patients waiting too long for treatment, depending on where you live.

It seems every day we read and hear about shortfalls and failures within our health system.

We look longingly at other first world countries and ask "why can't we have what they have?"

Well in most cases these countries have much larger tax-paying populations than New Zealand.


And I bet they don't have the social welfare spend we do.

Every year our adverse statistics remain pretty much the same irrespective of the amount of money thrown at the problems.

We can't have a Rolls-Royce health system when the necessary funding, that could make a big difference to health outcomes, is being gobbled up by the big black hole that is social welfare.

We can't have our cake and eat it too.

But as a health board member I know, and I'm proud of, the work being done in hospitals around the country by dedicated teams of clinicians and nurses.

In spite of the funding issues plaguing most DHBs these dedicated professionals continue to work hard and put their best foot forward every day.

Last week I had the privilege of hearing about outstanding work and professional development achieved over the past 12 months by nurses and midwifes at the Lakes DHB.

I attended their awards presentation. Nominations for the awards were put forward by peers and managers.

The awards celebrate excellence, innovation and achievements in the nursing and midwifery professions. The recipients were also recognised for striving for continuous improvement in patient outcomes.

The awards were wide ranging and celebrated: staff who had significantly contributed to the professional development of colleagues, teams or individuals that developed and implemented a significant change to practise or services processes, nursing and midwifery leadership, individuals who excelled in their clinical practice.

I think you will find such dedicated nurses in every hospital in the country. Always professional, doing the business every day. Meeting the unexpected when it comes, as in Christchurch, with dedication determined to be the best they can be at their job.

A highlight of the occasion was the short address by guest speaker Alice Street.

Alice trained and worked in the 90s at one of London's largest hospitals before emigrating to New Zealand.

Her first rural health experience was at Rawene Hospital in the Hokianga in the Far North. She stayed for five years and said this was the start of her love affair with rural health.

Next followed some years of nursing in rural and remote areas of Western Australia, Far North Queensland and Northern New South Wales.

When Alice described conditions in those isolated, remote communities you got to appreciate the commitment to nursing by those who choose to work in these areas.

That isn't nursing as we know it. It is helping people survive daily as well.

I suspect Alice thought she was just doing her job. But what I heard was much more than remote nursing.

Alice had to learn to be a jack of all trades whether she wanted to or not.

She learnt too that cultural practices are alive and well in remote areas and can affect how quickly or otherwise a person will respond to treatment.

And many times she had to trust her instincts. There was little opportunity to develop Plan B if things went wrong. A big thank you to Alice and other nurses who spend time nursing in rural and remote communities.

Our health system may have its faults. But we have top nurses working within our current health system.

I am pleased the Lakes DHB celebrates these awards each year. I support celebrating our successes.

I think the nurses and midwives who received awards are just the tip of the iceberg. They belong to a committed profession where you find talent, achievers and outstanding individuals.

They use their nursing skills every day to improve the lives of New Zealanders.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is a Rotorua district councillor, Lakes District Health Board member and chairs the North Island Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart political correctness.