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Private Health Sector For Elective Surgery

11 September 2008

Media Release

Southern Cross Supports More Efficient Use Of Private Health Sector For Elective Surgery

Not-for-profit healthcare provider, Southern Cross said today that it supports any moves to use the private sector more efficiently to improve access to elective surgery for all New Zealanders.

Southern Cross Healthcare Group Chief Executive, Dr. Ian McPherson said the focus on acute services in the public sector means that the delivery of elective procedures is increasingly at risk.

"We've been advocating this for years now and we are delighted that perhaps the politicians have heard us. It is not uncommon for DHB's to end the financial year with elective budgets unspent, patients untreated and waiting lists growing. At present contracts tend to be ad hoc, with Southern Cross Hospitals called on to help clear waiting lists at the end of the financial year. Often sufficient capacity cannot be made available at such short notice," he said.

"Advanced contracting or longer terms contracts, through which DHBs could allocate a percentage of their elective surgery each year, would mean the private sector would have confidence and certainty to gear up to manage more cases.

"New Zealand needs an open tender system where private sector providers compete for a percentage of publicly funded electives. Let's face it, private facilities are purpose built elective surgery machines, so they are always going to outperform a public system facing other difficult demands such as primary health, acute admissions, maternity care, medical training, mental health and the obesity epidemic.

"A competitive process will always ensure the best price is secured. An open tendering system for a set percentage of electives each year would also encourage the private sector to put its hands in its pockets and pay for additional capacity - an investment which taxpayers would not have to make, leaving precious health funding free to work in other areas.

"We see our Southern Cross Hospitals network as a perfect New Zealand organisation to work with the public sector. It is part of the Health Trust - a not for profit, charitable trust and especially committed to ensuring access to timely care for all New Zealanders (not just those with Southern Cross health insurance). Elective surgery is its core business with around 60,000 electives provided in the last year alone."

- ends -

About Southern Cross:

Southern Cross Healthcare is one of New Zealand's best known and most trusted brands, offering a broad range of health-related services to New Zealanders since the early 1960s. The Southern Cross Healthcare group consists of two separate organisations - Southern Cross Medical Care Society offering health insurance and related services, and Southern Cross Health Trust, operating 10 wholly-owned hospitals and three joint venture hospitals along with Southern Cross Travel Insurance.

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