Almost every week there are letters to the editor thanking the staff at Northland District Health Board and I add my voice to that chorus.
I was actually an appointed board member (all the initial board members were appointed in the first year) when Northland DHB was first created by the Labour government as a vehicle to better represent local needs 20 years ago.
We had a regional entity called Northern RHA which joined Northland, Waitemata, Counties Manukau and Auckland, and the Northland voice had simply disappeared into the complexities of Auckland.
It seems we must relive history with exactly the same regional configuration announced last week. I am concerned that again our local voice will be lost when final decision making is placed back in Wellington.
I want to thank the many elected board members over many years who put themselves up for election and carried the voice of democracy to the DHB table. This was a tough task but you stood up and were counted.
To hear the government say the local voice was not at the table is by my own observations wrong and frankly disrespectful.
No health system is perfect and neither were DHBs, but they were simply set up to serve the functions that they ended up performing.
To blame DHBs then for where we find ourselves today and ignore the wide range of levers Wellington had to hold them to account and provide oversight is to ignore the role government increasingly abdicated, as recent Treasury Official Information Act documents show.
I need to acknowledge that managing health is a hard problem anywhere in the world.
I have been privileged to critique and advise a number of international health systems.
Health was hard in our hands over nine years as well and when we handed DHBs over in 2017/2018 just over half had some degree of deficit.
This has ballooned dramatically, however, over the following years but I make the point that it was hard for us too.
I haven't at all given up on local DHB type identities and as I promised in campaign 2020 I will continue to fight for retaining our DHB and the staff and the local voice.
Other candidates who made similar promises now need to stand by their promise and prevent this from happening.
Oh and by the way, government can't just nationalise DHB assets such as land, equipment and the crocheted premature neonate head warmers that were gifts from iwi, Rotary, Lions and many donors, sponsors and volunteers.
They belong to the community from whence they came and not government.
I started this column by thanking the staff at Northland DHB and I will end doing the same.
We are so proud of you and the work you have done keeping this region as well as possible within the constraints that resources and policy changes have allowed.
For me personally, you safely delivered all my three children, the twins by Caesarean section – thank you.
I do hope that there is a place for you all in the restructuring and that we can all find a way to get the best of the changes towards better health outcomes.
• Dr Shane Reti is deputy leader of the National Party and a list MP based in Whangārei.