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Massive Pay Claims Could Blow Health Budget

The Health Minister is under pressure to say why she failed to take into account the impact of massive pay claims from doctors and nurses that threaten to blow out the health budget.

ACT Health Spokesman Ken Shirley today said the cost of the 20% wage increase sought by the New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association and the 14% increase from the Nurses Union would blow any extra health spending the Government had announced in last week’s budget.

“Salaries account for over $2 billion dollars in the health budget. Even if the Government can hold a 10% across the board pay increase that would cost at least $200 million,” he said.

“In the election campaign, Annette King raised expectations for significant pay increases for health professionals under a Labour Government. With the limited money available in Vote health, she is now faced with the tough choice between operations or wage increases,” he said.

Mrs King said yesterday that she had no comment to make on wages because it is outside her “sphere of influence.”

Mr Shirley is also warning that when the Employment Relations Bill is passed the way will be cleared for industrial action from nurses and salaried hospital staff in support of their pay claims.

“The Minister is stuck between a rock and a hard place. She needs some incentive to stop the haemorrhaging of our young doctors who are leaving New Zealand hospitals by the hundreds, but she can’t risk blowing the health budget,” he said.

“At present New Zealand hospitals have over 150 vacancies. According to Statistics New Zealand 4700 health professionals – including doctors and nurses have left the country since 1996. 350 doctors left New Zealand hospitals last year alone. This is a huge staffing crisis that is starting to bite into surgery waiting times, patient safety and staff workload stress,” he said.

“The Minister also has to find the money in the budget for her health reforms which are uncosted and way behind schedule,” said Ken Shirley.

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