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DHBS Must Reassure That Consultation Is Credible

22 September 2008
News release

DHBS Must Reassure That Consultation Is Credible

Following today’s announcement of consultation around a proposal to charge private patients for laboratory tests, Southern Cross Healthcare is urging the Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waitemata DHBs to reassure Aucklanders that they can have faith in the process.

“Consultation implies views will be listened to. That has certainly not been the case in other parts of the country where widespread opposition to charges for laboratory tests has been largely ignored. Should the Auckland Boards be so cavalier it would make a mockery of the consultation process and Aucklanders should rightly demand a reassurance that this isn’t just the Boards going through the motions on a pre-determined decision.”

Southern Cross Healthcare Group Chief Executive, Dr Ian McPherson said the most recent example of less-than-sincere consultation was in the South Island.

“Despite 75% of the submissions opposing the proposal to charge private patients for laboratory testing, only the South Canterbury DHB took any notice of the weight of public opinion and rejected the proposal to shift costs to private patients. Further, Otago and Southland are already moving to implement the charges. West Coast and Canterbury have agreed to wait until a national policy on lab tests has been developed.”

“This consultation process needs to take into consideration the views of a wide range of people, including the many Aucklanders who fund their own health care costs as well as the 40% of Aucklanders with private health insurance – all of whom are taxpayers. If these views are not heard it is a flawed process.

Dr McPherson is urging all Aucklanders, including Southern Cross’ more than 330,000 members in the region, to strongly oppose this proposal.
“This is a blatant cost shift not only to people who are already paying twice for their health care - through taxes and health insurance - but to those paying for private care out of their own pockets.

“This policy is targeted against anyone, insured or not, who has private treatment and requires tests. It assumes anyone seeking treatment from a private specialist has money to burn, yet time and again taxpayers are going private because the alternative is taking their chances with a points system which can turn care on and off depending on public system workloads and budgets.

“In Wellington, in just 10 months, private patients have been forced to hand over more than $1.6 million; with the average cost for tests at each visit running at $62.20, so we are not talking small amounts here.”

Dr McPherson said most Aucklanders would be unaware that tests could be expensive. Patients in Wellington having cardiac surgery, for example, have paid costs up to $2,400.

“The Wellington DHBs quoted a $10 average per test in their consultation round, yet their own analysis after 10 months of charging is nowhere near that.”

Dr McPherson said Southern Cross would be opposing the proposal on behalf of its members, but he said it was critical they also make their feelings known individually.

“The message needs to be loud and clear and it needs enough people to say ‘no’ to ensure the DHBs cannot afford to ignore it.”


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