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Budget opportunity for govt to fund health properly


Budget opportunity for govt to fund health properly

“Tomorrow’s Budget is an opportunity for the Government to put money where its mouth is and show how much it really values the health care of New Zealanders,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

“Our health system needs a significant injection of cash just to maintain the current level of health services, and we know that’s not enough to meet the needs of our communities. If we want to actually improve the health of people in this country then the Budget will need to provide funding that covers the real costs of running our public hospitals.”

“Right now public hospitals are being held together by overstretched and overworked senior doctors and other health professionals. At some point this madness must end.”

Mr Powell says early indications suggest district health boards (DHBs) are in line to get $250 million more than last year, which would be $149 million short of what they need to maintain their current level of services.

Council of Trade Unions (CTU) research shows DHBs need an increase of $399 million, or 3.6 percent, to maintain existing levels of service. Allowing for reasonable additions to services and new treatments, as well as productivity increases, would require an increase of $536 million, or 4.8 percent more than DHBs currently receive.

Overall, the entire Health vote (which includes more than DHBs) would need to rise by $499 million or 3.5 percent to maintain current services, and by $670 million or 4.7 percent if the Government wanted it to do more.

“The Government likes to present the health sector as the big winner in its Budget spending each year but that’s simply not correct,” says Mr Powell.

“If the health sector as a whole is not funded properly, what we will be looking at is a further deterioration of services, less access to new treatments, and increasing user charges for health care. That will be bad for patients and it will certainly be bad for senior doctors and other health professionals working in New Zealand’s public hospitals.”

He says politicians need to put aside their embellishments and ‘spin’ about how well the health system is doing and focus on funding long-term sustainable solutions.

“There’s a real opportunity here for the Government to step up and show it’s serious about improving health care and investing in its specialist workforce. New Zealand is dealing with an aging population, a growing burden of chronic and poverty-related illnesses, leaky hospitals and rundown facilities, and a host of workforce issues that need addressing, such as entrenched shortages and excessive workloads.

“The last thing overstretched and overworked health professionals need is a few extra plasters tossed our way and a sympathetic hug from the Government.”


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