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21 Health Boards Brace For Significant Cuts

The entire country faces longer waiting lists, cuts in services, and threats to quality and safety because of significant widespread cuts in health funding, National's Health spokesperson Roger Sowry said today.

Secret pre-Budget Ministry of Health figures released by Mr Sowry show that all of the country's 21 District Health Boards face real cuts in funding in the next financial year.

Collectively the District Health Boards face a funding cut of $23.261million from their allocated funding for the current 2000-01 financial year. In their current contract the DHBs receive funding of $3,332.708 million. Next year they will get only $3,309.448 million. Facing the biggest squeeze, the South Island will be stripped of $15.319 million.

Seven of the 21 DHBs face no obvious decrease but are big losers as well. Any 'small gains' will fail to keep up with last year's inflation rate of 3.1%, recent wage increases, and higher drug costs due to the lower dollar.

"Annette King complained in 1998 that Crown Health Enterprises were struggling to meet day-to-day expenses due to lack of funding. National had effectively got rid of the deficits prior to the last election.

"In the 18 months she's been in charge, health providers are much more seriously in the red because she's failed to secure appropriate funding. The deficit throughout the country has been estimated conservatively as being about $60 million for the current financial year. At the same time hospitals have been put through an unnecessary and expensive health restructure.

"The health deficit blow-out also comes at a time when the Government has committed $80 million to a bank people don't want, and put $180 million towards the arts.

"What's more, the Government is saying DHBs will have to find their own way out of the financial hole the Government's dug for them.

Minister of Finance Michael Cullen said in Parliament on 2 May 'any boards that do face the prospect of deficits... are expected to develop management plans that will bring them back within the budget'.

"This Government promised to make health its priority but instead it's stripping money out of the DHBs and telling them 'you sort it out'. Alarmingly, the 21 DHBs will now seriously contemplate cutting health services to keep afloat," Mr Sowry said.


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