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Fourth Health Board Forced To Make Cuts

22 March 2002

The Otago District Health Board is the fourth health board in a week to go public saying that they are considering health cuts because of underfunding, National's Health Spokesperson Roger Sowry said today.

It is reported today that the Otago Board can't rule out having to reduce some services, including the number of operations it performs.

Last week the Southland, Auckland and Waitemata boards indicated they were considering making cuts to services.

"When I asked Health Minister Annette King about this in Parliament this week she fudged the answer. Her talk about increased health funding is simply not true when boards are not being funded enough to even keep up with inflation, rising costs and increased due to demand.

"Ánnette King continues to claim that there will be no cuts in health services but she is failing to see the health board and media reports all around her which indicate that the wheels are falling off district health board services.

"Otago is already struggling to provide services. This week's elective services statistics show the number of Otago patients waiting greater than 18 months for first specialist assessment increased from zero in the first quarter of 2000-01 to 219 in the first quarter of the current year.

"The number of patients waiting more than 6 months for treatment increased from 225 in the fourth quarter of 2000-01, to 344 in the first quarter of 2001-02. The number waiting more than 2 years increased from zero to 49 in the past year.

"Boards like Otago have nowhere to go but to cut services and that's why they are asking staff to identify savings. The Minister must take responsibility instead of avoiding questions in Parliament and dodging talking to the media," Mr Sowry said.

Ends

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