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A lost opportunity – govt failure to invest in health

15 May 2014

A lost opportunity – govt failure to invest in health

“Today’s health budget contains some positive initiatives that are a step in the right direction but their effects will be undermined by the fact the health system is still facing a funding shortfall of $224 million for the coming year,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

“We’re very pleased to see initiatives such as extended free doctors’ visits and prescriptions for children under 13, which will undoubtedly make a difference for many people.

“However, overall the Government has missed an opportunity to give the health sector the resources it needs to really improve the health of all New Zealanders by continuing the run down of public hospitals.”

DHBs received $11,405 million in the Budget to run the country’s public hospitals but they needed $11,503 just to maintain their existing levels of health services. This means public hospitals will start the next financial year already short by $98 million. Overall, the health sector – which includes more than public hospitals – will be short of $224 million in the coming year.

“The money they’ve been given today will barely touch the sides of their operational requirements,” says Mr Powell. “We know from our discussions with DHBs around the country, and from anecdotal evidence, that DHBs are struggling to manage their deficits and operational requirements,” says Mr Powell. “The money they’ve been given in today’s Budget fails to ease that situation.

“The Government has chosen to continue with its dangerous strategy of under-funding New Zealand’s public health system for the fifth year in a row. This is despite research showing the sector needs more than a plaster or two to patch up the cracks in its aging infrastructure and to deal with the increasingly complex health needs of our communities, along with the ongoing workforce shortages which continue to be felt throughout the country.”

“If the Government fails to fund the health sector properly in order to invest in the clinical workforce then we can be sure of a further deterioration of services, more patients being denied treatment, a gradual increase in user charges for health care, and offloading some services from public hospitals to private providers searching to maximise their profits.”

“The Government’s funding of health is a real disappointment. It shows that our political masters are out-of-touch and only listen to advice from those who tell them what they want to hear.”

ENDS

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