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The Importance of being Plunket

Media Release
30 April 2006

The Importance of being Plunket

When Parliament resumes this week, MPs can expect a visit or a phone call from Plunket, asking them to sign the petition calling for the reinstatement of Ministry of Health funding to PlunketLine.

On the last day before the three week Easter recess, the Ministry of Health announced it was ending the funding for Plunket’s 24-hour Well Child phone support service, PlunketLine, and instead had awarded the contract to international call-centre operators McKesson Corporation Ltd.

Plunket has responded to allegations by the Ministry, repeated by the Prime Minister that the reason for cutting the funding to PlunketLine, is because PlunketLine has not been able to answer all the calls which are made to the service. Evidence provided by Plunket on the service delivery of PlunketLine shows that it has been operating with limited funding from the Ministry on the one hand, while out-performing the call requirements of its contract on the other. “To say we have not performed is absolutely indefensible,”says Kaye Crowther, President of Plunket. “The figures prove we have met the Ministry contract, and that we continue to seek improvement of the service. For the Ministry to cut Plunket out of the picture and expect parents to phone a general medical call centre instead of PlunketLine, shows they do not understand the Well Child service.”

Kaye goes on to say, “People phone PlunketLine because they want to speak to a Plunket Nurse. If parents cannot get through, they phone the clinics after-hours or phone the nurses at home. Instead of recognizing the value of having qualified Plunket Nurses answer the phones, and enabling Plunket to extend the service, the Ministry has decided to remove Plunket from the service altogether.”

Plunket has twice met in the Prime Minister’s office and most recently with the Prime Minister herself on Friday.

“Plunket has developed and run PlunketLine for 12 years. We are not giving up now. One way or another, we will keep it going,”said Kaye.

Support for Plunket after this shock announcement has been widespread, with community groups, NGO’s, healthcare professionals, parents and politicians all voicing their dismay at the Ministry’s decision.

PlunketLine has received tremendous support from other community and health sector organisations including New Zealand Playcentre Federation, Parents Centre, New Zealand Nurses Organisation, Barnardos, the National Council of Women, Zonta International District 16, Voice for Life – to name a few. It has also received support from politicians from right across the political spectrum – National, the Greens, the Maori Party, United Future and ACT.

Plunket’s national petition has already collected thousands of signatures throughout the community. Outside Plunket’s national office on Lambton Quay close to a thousand signatures were collected during Friday lunch hour alone. Volunteers will be back on the street in force this week. You can find more information about the petition and PlunketLine at www.plunket.org.nz

Ends

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