Julie Haggie has resigned from her role as chief executive of the Home and Community Health Association (HCHA) after eight years at the helm.

In early September, she is taking up the role of chief executive of Transparency New Zealand, an organization that advocates against corruption overseas.

“I’m just ready for something new,” says Haggie.

She is confident she’s leaving the Association in good hands.

“There’s a really good board and some really committed individuals in the sector. I think it will be good to have someone with fresh ideas as well.”

Things have come a long way in the eight years she’s been with HCHA.

“To start with we had to fight our way to get into the discussion and then as it got further along we were just naturally assumed to be part of the conversation,” she says.

Haggie says there’s much broader knowledge across the funding agencies now.

“You’re not going in and speaking in the dark which is how it felt when I first started,” she says, “People didn’t really know what the service delivered or how it was constructed or any of the levers that operated it.”

She’s proudest of the strategic engagement they conducted on workforce and funding as well as the value and contribution of home support.

“I think we’ve lifted the whole concept from a broader health sector view of the service and also it revealed some of the value that’s going on, on a day to day basis in the community.”

“There’s been better gathering and use of data that’s also helped to make the service and its clients more visible.”

Data collected from interRAI and from the research around guaranteed hours and in-between travel time has enabled the HCHA to look at the scale on both national and regional levels. The service is delivering to such a large number of people you can’t deny it has national implications, says Haggie.

She’s also proud of the HCHA’s advocacy on behalf of Maori providers, and the publication of the Supporting people to move booklet of which 50,000 copies were distributed in the community.

The HCHA has dealt with some huge issues in recent years, including negotiating sleep-over pay and conditions, in-between travel time, guaranteed hours, introducing a sector standard, and pay equity.

Haggie says she’s learned a lot from these negotiations, particularly working with people.

“It’s about working with unions, government agencies and each other to get the best outcome. Sometimes it means disagreeing with each other and we’ve certainly been down there as well but we’ve had some very honest discussions and its being prepared to have those.”

There still is bit of an institutional bias, towards hospitals and residential aged care, she says.

“I sometimes wonder if the people who are making decisions are clinicians and can’t visualize the person in their home and because they can’t see that, there’s still a little bit of a fog in front of their eyes.”

She thinks more generally, people need to get out of the institutional mindset and take responsibility for their own health.

The challenges aren’t likely to be over for the Home and Community Support Services sector.

“The problem is provider organisations are really struggling mightily and that’s going to flow onto clients. I think

the financial and administrative burden caused by these major changes is both diverting and exhausting.”

“Sustainability is about money but it’s also about people and their ideas and their energy and their capacity and if we want these services to be able to deliver to a rising volume and demand…there has to be that investment – and that’s all the elements of investment, it’s not just dollars.”

Haggie says providers of all sizes are still feeling a great deal of uncertainty.

There are many good quality community providers “hanging on by a thread” and there is a real risk that they could just “slip away”, says Haggie. She thinks this would be a real shame for the sector and for our communities as we would lose that diversity.

Haggie worries that the service provided by the home and community support services sector is taken for granted.

“Amidst the strong advocacy we’ve had about money, the message about the amazing achievements of this very lightly resourced health service has been diminished. Stories of staff, their ideas, their skills, their commitment – it’s a story to be told and celebrated.”

The HCHA board has expressed their thanks to Haggie for her leadership and commitment.

“Over the past 12 months Julie has steered HCHA and the sector through some extremely challenging times and she leaves HCHA well positioned to move forward to meet the challenges of the future.”

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