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Funding For Primary Health Care Strategy

Government Announces Funding For Primary Health Care Strategy Implementation

Health Minister Annette King says the Government will inject more than $400 million in new funding into primary health care over the next three years as part of the nearly $3 billion health funding package she announced in December.

Ms King, who announced the new funding today at a media conference also attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Alliance leader Jim Anderton, said the Labour-Alliance Government was committed over time to moving “to a system where everyone gets affordable access to primary health care.

“This funding announcement is the most important development in caring for the health of New Zealanders since the first Labour Government introduced patient subsidies in the 1940s.”

Ms King said $50 million was allocated to begin implementing the Primary Health Care Strategy in the 2002/2003 year, rising to $165 million in 2003/2004, and $195 million in 2004/2005.

Ms King and Mr Anderton also announced today that although the new funding meant the beginning of phasing out the Community Services Card, the card could not be eliminated immediately. “That will happen as we implement the Primary Health Care Strategy completely over the next eight to 10 years. In the meantime the income threshold for the CSC will be raised to allow some 23,000 New Zealanders to have or continue to have lower-cost visits and prescriptions, and we will do our best to encourage far better uptake of the card.

“We are also increasing the general medical services subsidy from $32.50 to $35 for all GP services to children under six to adjust for inflation since the subsidy was introduced in 1997.”

Ms King said the new funding “will be targeted firstly at low-income people with high health needs. Some may see this as unfair, but we cannot achieve everything for everyone immediately.

“I expect that by the end of 2002/03 we will have reduced the cost of accessing primary health care and improved primary health care services for at least 300,000 New Zealanders. PHOs will become key mechanisms for District Health Boards to meet the needs of their populations.

“As a Government, we have had energetic debate over the best way of targeting the new money initially. In the end we have decided the first priority has to be low income, high health needs New Zealanders.

“As more funding becomes available from 2003/04, it will start to be applied to extend free or low cost access to primary health care services through PHOs. The priorities will be reducing costs for school-age children followed by the elderly and others with high health needs.”

Ms King said the Government’s commitment to improving the health of New Zealanders could not be signaled more clearly than by today's announcement.

"I cannot imagine that there is anywhere it could be better spent. Improving early access to health care is absolutely crucial if we are to make a real difference to the health of New Zealanders. Implementing the Primary Health Care Strategy, which I launched a year ago, offers us our best chance yet to improve health.

"The logic is obvious. At present about 30 percent of hospital admissions for those aged under-75 are avoidable. Two-thirds of these can be avoided through earlier access to effective primary health care. Ultimately that is more than 60,000 hospital admissions that we should be able to prevent each year once the Strategy is fully implemented.”

Ms King said most of the new funding will be directed toward people enrolled with PHOs serving low-income, high health need populations. "These are a new type of health organisation for New Zealand, and will provide a more comprehensive range of services to an enrolled group of people.

“The aim is to improve, maintain and restore people's health rather than simply respond to individuals when they present at a general practice. PHOs will make more effective use of a range of professionals like doctors, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, physiotherapists, mental health workers and others in new and innovative ways.

“One thing all PHOs will have in common is that they will focus their energies on keeping their enrolled populations as well as possible for as long as possible. That is what the Primary Health Care Strategy is all about. And that is why today’s announcement is such a special day for the future health of New Zealanders.”


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