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New Figures Show Deepening Health Crisis

Thursday 28 Feb 2002

ACT Health Spokesman Ken Shirley says today's latest official public health figures show that the country's hospitals are spiralling dangerously further and further into the red and only a major change in Government policy will address the crisis.

"Statistics New Zealand says that in the December quarter the health boards collectively racked up an operating deficit of $53.6 million - the highest since June 1997 - and some $13 million more than the previous quarter.

"At the current rate of deficit growth, the full year deficit is likely to hit $240 million - some $20 million more than estimated in the December Economic Fiscal Update - and making a complete mockery of Annette King's assertions, also in December, that the figure wouldn't pass $100 million.

"Adding to the agony, wage costs were up over 3 percent in the December quarter alone. With the Canterbury District Health Board having recently given its nurses a 10 percent settlement and other boards currently in negotiation, more and more financial pressure will be applied.

"The value of the taxpayers' stake in the public health system has shrunk by an alarming 6 percent in the past year, with debt levels rising accordingly.

"In short, the health boards are descending into a deep black hole which will suck up all and more of the extra funding the Government has announced for future years.

"This downward spiral must be curtailed. ACT advocates a greater involvement of the private sector to ensure that all health resources are allocated and used in an optimum manner. The level of wastage within the public health sector is appalling. Most of that wastage flows from inefficient resource allocation. This Government is moving in the opposite direction - with increased central control and more state provision. This can only compound the problems. What is needed is a 180 degree turn in policy - very quickly," Ken Shirley said.

Ends

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