07 Nov 2019
Addressing a room of over 100 people from across the South Island health and social sector, Southern DHB Chief Executive and Chair of the South Island Alliance, Chris Fleming, kicked off last month’s annual Alliance workshop by acknowledging how far the Alliance had come. It started 11 years ago with four DHB Chief Executives and their Board Chairs in a room planning how to deliver services better in the South Island. It has grown into a large, multi-disciplinary event focussed on collective action to solve shared problems.
“The South Island used to be viewed as a disparate group of people who hardly talked to each other,” says Chris. “I remember a colleague once saying he had to cut the barbed wire at the Waitaki Bridge when he moved from Canterbury to Southern DHB, just to get over the hurdles that we’d put up. We’ve matured so much since then. We’ve become broader in our thinking and we’re doing some really creative, innovative things. Now we have the opportunity to right some wrongs in terms of how we go about our planning.”
In addition to DHB executives and clinicians, participants at this year’s collaborative planning workshop, held in Christchurch on 15 October, included primary care organisations, general practice, NGOs, community providers, social sector agencies and consumers. The purpose of the day was to inform and align regional planning – and there was no barbed wire or boundaries of any sort, metaphorical or not. Instead, there was a shared understanding of the potential benefits of working together and a commitment to making it happen.
“We’ve broken down our geographical boundaries – people can now move within the South Island with no loss of information and still receive the same quality of care. Now we are working on breaking down the boundaries between organisations and services,” Chris explains.
The three subject areas up for discussion were the First 1,000 Days, Mental Health and Addictions and Ageing Population. “We chose these because in health they are what we call ‘wicked problems’ – they are complex and dependent on many different factors. They are the areas we could see the greatest potential for working together.” There was also a strong focus on achieving equity for Māori and the implications of change on the health workforce.
After exploring each subject area in depth, a list of priorities was identified that the South Island health system could act on collectively. “The biggest question now is ‘what happens next,’” says Chris. “If we do nothing, we will keep trucking along, having some wins and making slow progress. However, if we work together and leverage each other’s strengths, we can effect change much faster.
Moira Underdown, who represented Oranga Tamariki at the event said, “It was a fantastic opportunity to be immersed in different thinking and language, and it’s great to see what might be possible to join up with.”
Everyone was asked to step outside their day jobs and think about how to do things better, says Chris. “Not better for our individual organisations or communities, but for everyone in the South Island – no matter who they are, where they come from or where they live. Our challenge now is to keep the momentum going.”