Kia ora,

My name is Grant Brookes. I'm standing for election to Capital & Coast District Health Board.

The most trusted profession have put their trust in me, electing me President of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation. Now I'm asking you to put me at the top of your list of DHB candidates this October.

I am committed to:

  • Fences at the top of the cliff, not ambulances below
  • Reversing the decline in our health funding
  • Money for health improvement, not CEO pay rises
  • Putting the "care" back into Aged Care
  • Whānau Ora – family well-being for all

  • Having stood for the Board in 2013 and narrowly missed out, I now aim to become part of a fresh, like-minded team with the energy to meet today's health challenges.

    You can find out more About me and My priorities by clicking on the links, or by contacting me on 021 053 2973, or emailing grant_brookes at paradise dot net dot nz.


    What do you think are the issues for older people?
     Like my fellow candidate David Choat, I think that older people want to lead a rewarding and engaged life with their family and friends, the same as anyone else.
     This means being valued for themselves and being enabled to make meaningful contributions, through strong connections to other people.
     But I also think that older people value security - which means personal safety, financial security, and a certainty that help is on hand if ill-health strikes.
     It's not for nothing that the Act of Parliament which underpinned New Zealand's welfare state was called the Social Security Act.
     I want to strengthen the security provided by our health system.

     What are your positions on these issues?
     I promote an "ambulance at the top of the cliff" approach to healthcare, focused on keeping people well so that they need as few of the invasive and costly treatments as possible.
     This means universal access to a GP or practice nurse when you need it. This is far from the case at the moment. A third of the people in the Capital & Coast District experienced "unmet need for primary health care" in the last year. The most common form of unmet need was being unable to get an appointment with your GP or other health professional at your usual medical centre within 24 hours. I want to help fix this problem.
     In the case of our older generation, keeping people well also means supporting them to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. Again, recent decisions by Capital & Coast DHB - such as the June 2010 decision to reduce household management support - has hindered this goal. Help with cleaning, cooking and shopping are now much more restricted. I think this decision was a mistake.
     Finally, keeping people well means tackling causes of avoidable illness such as cold and damp housing, poor diet, inactivity and social isolation. Underlying all of these social determinants of health is poverty. I think that Regional Public Health Services should be beefed up and allowed to go after these root causes of illness, to create a healthier population of younger and older people alike.

     Do you have any policy ideas you would like older people to care more about?
     The world is constantly changing. New Zealand today is very different from the country that older people grew up in.
     The migration of Māori people from the country to Greater Wellington happened within their lifetime. The Māori cultural renaissance and the arrival of new migrants have changed the face of our district.
     So I am not surprised if an older person does not immediately support these "new arrivals" in our district when they speak out about their needs.
     But I believe that non-European cultures have a lot to offer in many areas of life - including health policy. The Whānau Ora philosophy is one such contribution.
     Sadly, it has become a political football. Some of those who would like to discredit the idea have misrepresented it so that it becomes hard to understand.
     But at its core, the Whānau Ora philosophy expresses health values shared by most people. Firstly, we should help people to help themselves. And secondly, a person is not just a patient to be medicated or operated on, but a member of a family and a community, whose wellbeing underpins their own. The Whānau Ora philosophy goes hand in glove with the "ambulance at the top of the cliff" approach to keeping people well.
     I'd like people to maybe take another look at Whānau Ora. After that, I would hope that all older people cared more about this policy idea.

     How do you balance inter-generational equity in your policy thinking?
     "Inter-generational equity" is a fairly recent idea in social policy. It arose historically after the emergence of the so-called "generation gap". And I think it's a product of the "me generation".
     When New Zealand led the world in welfare for older people and children alike, a century or more ago, our system was based on a very different understanding of equity. Those in need were supported by a welfare safety net. This was funded by progressive taxation, which took more from the people who were more fortunate. This was generally accepted as fair and equitable.
     Dismantling this system involved privatisation of many parts of the social fabric - including the privatisation of retirement savings and elder care. No longer could struggling older people rely on support from the more fortunate. In the reign of the "me generation", each individual was expected to save for their own retirement, and purchase their own care.
     In this brave new world where people are expected to fend for themselves, along came the idea of "inter-generational equity". At its heart, the idea is based on the view that the older generation are a "burden" on the young.
     I reject this premise. Instead, I think we need to bring back the original understanding of equity into our policy thinking. From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.
     Some people vote on who you are as much as what you stand for. What is it about you that you think is important for older people to know?
     I am a nurse. I have worked at the bedside and in the community to care for people for the last 17 years. Before entering nursing, I worked as a volunteer in a hospice. So I know the realities of caring for older people.
     I also bring experience of health sector governance and in-depth knowledge of the health system. I have represented Greater Wellington on the New Zealand Nurses Organisation Board of Directors and I also chair NZNO's DHB Sector Committee.
     "Putting the care back into aged care" is number one in my "top five" list of priorities, as listed on all my election campaign material.

     More broadly, what is the one policy you would like to see implemented across the health system?
     If I had to choose just one policy to be implemented across the health system, it would be for DHBs to become Living Wage employers for all their staff.
     The minimum wage in New Zealand is currently $13.75. The Living Wage campaign aims to establish a minimum pay rate which is enough for people to live and participate in society, not merely survive. The New Zealand Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit calculated this year that it would require an hourly rate of $18.40.
     This would particularly benefit the aged care sector, where a majority of care workers are on, or just above the minimum wage. Their poverty pay blights many services with high staff turnover, poor morale - in fact, in more ways than I care to mention. And what message does it send about the value of older people in our society when their carers are treated so badly?
     But the benefits of implementing the Living Wage in DHBs would flow far wider. The evidence published by British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, in their book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, is very clear. Greater inequality is linked to greater health problems. And New Zealand has the fastest-growing gap between rich and poor in the Western world.
     Making DHBs Living Wage employers could could help the movement to lift low pay across the economy and create a healthier New Zealand.
     Is there anything I should have asked you about that I haven't that you think it is important for older people to know.
     No, that's all. Thank you for your thoughtful questions. If anyone wants to ask me other questions, or make suggestions, they are welcome to email me at g_brookes (at) paradise (dot) net (dot) nz.

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