Voting ballots closed for the Northland District Health Board last Saturday, and while the last votes are yet to be counted, early numbers indicate the board will have a number of new faces.
Dr Kyle Eggleton, Northland GP of 16 years and Māori health advocate, will be a DHB newcomer if votes confirm his appointment on Thursday.
Working for Māori health provider Ki A Ora Ngātiwai for the past decade, Eggleton identified systematic bias as a major issue within Northland health institutions.
As a member of the NDHB, Eggleton says he would address inadequacies in Māori health care and look at how to allocate resources to much-needed services.
He received a Distinguished Fellowship at the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners three years ago acknowledging his work towards reducing inequalities between the health of Māori and non-Māori.
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"Another pressing factor I'm focusing on is primary care," Eggleton said. "The Northland workforce is stressed and overloaded. Patients are struggling to get appointments with GPs."
According to Mahitahi Hauora, the organisation overseeing most primary healthcare in Northland, the expected number of GP consultations in the region this year would be 502,350 – 6254 more than last year.
A rapidly growing over-65 population, coupled with a large Māori and widely disbursed population, all put pressure on existing Northland GP services.
"My focus would be to deliver more primary care in the region and develop our workforce," Eggleton said.
Eggleton also wants to look at empowering local communities by supporting and funding community-led initiatives.
The GP, originally from Hikurangi, is lecturing at the University of Auckland and is currently doing a PhD on how to measure the quality of primary health care.
Another potential new arrival is Vince Cocurullo who served several terms as a Whangārei District Councillor and returns this year as one of the Okara Ward representatives.
Cocurullo says the double role was fitting as the council would receive a lot of input from the DHB. He would be looking at improving financial shortcomings as a board member.
He says since funding from Wellington had been lacking, Northland's health care providers weren't adequately equipped.
As a new board member, Cocurullo's focus would be serving his community and providing a listening ear for those who need it.
Long-standing board member John Bain, who got Northland's emergency helicopter service up and running, received the majority of the vote, with a 2604 margin ahead of incumbent board chair Sally Macauley who also secured a seat.
Bain says working for the DHB was a matter dear to his heart and he was delighted to return for another term.
"Northland is experiencing a pattern of growth, and there will be a lot of changes we have to cater for," Bain described the work ahead for the DHB.
He says while Northland was left behind in several regards, it would build upon an extremely well-managed base of health professional staff.
Like Cocurullo, Bain wants to advocate for more funding from central government for every Northlander to receive appropriate health care. Bain is also an elected member of Northland Regional Council.
Macauley will be starting her seventh term as a DHB member and agrees that funding is top of the agenda, followed by a new hospital and combating obesity.
Debbie Evans and Libby Jones return to office having served several terms at the DHB previously, while community development worker Carol Peters might also have a chance to join the board.
With 347 votes ahead, Peters is competing with Harko Brown, author and chief executive of the Aotearoa/NZ World Indigenous Games Trust.
Peters has a 26-year long record in community involvement and has been elected Okara Ward councillor on the Whangārei council.
Final results are expected on Thursday. Another four board members will be appointed by Minister of Health David Clark. The new DHB will take office on December 9.