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Demand Climbs For Private Healthcare

21 January 2008

1,000 Members A Month As Demand Climbs For Private Healthcare

Rising demand for elective surgery in private hospitals is being reflected in continuing membership growth for New Zealand’s largest health insurer, Southern Cross Medical Care Society, its CEO, Dr Ian McPherson said today.

He was commenting on statistics released by the Health Funds Association of New Zealand which showed the private sector performed 148,200 elective procedures in the year to June 2007, nearly 60% of New Zealand’s total elective surgical discharges, and the Association’s forecast that demand for elective surgery (both private and public) would double in the next 20 years to 500,000 procedures.

Dr McPherson said the Southern Cross Medical Care Society achieved record membership growth of 17,356 in the year to June 30, 2007.

This gain in membership accounted for 90% of the total increase in New Zealanders covered by health insurance for this period and this growth trend showed little sign of waning.

“We have been writing an average 1000 new members every month for the six months to December 2007 and now have 831,256 New Zealanders with Southern Cross policies.”

“While I believe New Zealanders recognise that the public system does an excellent job in challenging areas such as acute and primary health care, it cannot always meet their expectations in terms of elective surgery. As a result increasing numbers of people are ensuring they have the option of turning to us if they need elective surgery, or have an unexpected illness that needs treatment.”

Dr McPherson said demand for privately performed surgery was also reflected in investments being made by the Southern Cross Health Trust, which is independent of the Medical Care Society and operates New Zealand’s largest hospital network of 13 wholly owned and joint venture private hospitals.

The investment programme in the year ended June 30 2007 – included a $15 million redevelopment in Christchurch, a $4 million new theatre block in New Plymouth and a new six-theatre joint venture facility in Tauranga.

The not-for-profit hospitals group, which treated around 60,000 New Zealanders in the 2006/07 financial year, has been investing to accommodate increased demand and to introduce specialist technologies such as laser guidance systems to aid in laproscopic and other highly precise surgery.

Dr McPherson said, “Demand is a mix of insurance-funded surgery, self-pay, ACC and DHB (District Health Board) contracts. While the majority of surgeries are still insurance-related, Southern Cross Hospitals are increasingly working with the public sector.

With demand for elective surgery forecast to double in the next 20 years, we predict there will be increasing opportunities for the public and private sector to work collaboratively to get New Zealanders off elective surgery waiting lists.”


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