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King Must Come Clean On Pending Health Cuts

ACT Health Spokesman Ken Shirley today urged Minister Annette King to come clean and finally concede to New Zealanders that major cuts will be needed to health services in order for the service providers to drag themselves out of the red.

"In its five-year plan, the country's largest healthcare provider, the Auckland District Health Board, says achieving the Government's target of break even in the next three years `is a significant challenge'.

"This seems to me to be a great understatement by the board, because its preliminary financial projections show that in the 2004/05 financial year the board will record a deficit of $72 million - exactly the same as the forecast level of deficit in the current financial year and some $59 million more than the level of deficit the Government has said it will support.

"So what will the board do? It says the deficit gaps will need to be addressed and this will involve identifying further savings and `service change options that will lead to a reduction in service levels in some areas. It is also likely that any service reductions will be greater than the amount of the deficit gap'.

"Does the Minister need the situation any more clearly laid out for her? And yet she still refuses to publicly concede that such cuts will occur. This is the same Minister who was saying just shortly before Christmas that the combined deficit of the 21 health boards was unlikely to exceed $100 million this year - when it has now reached about $250 million.

"The Minister has no credibility. By refusing to accept the extent of the problems she is making them worse. Under this Minister the New Zealand public can anticipate a sharp deterioration in the level of health services provided. Indeed the Minister is already trying to lower expectations, commenting recently in a speech that `there is a growing understanding I believe in the wider New Zealand community that no Government can meet all New Zealander's expectations about health'.

"The 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.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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