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National Announces Health Rescue Package

1 July 2002

National will implement a rescue package for district health boards which have accumulated a combined operating deficit of over $300m in two years, National Leader Bill English said today announcing National's Health Policy at the Mt Eden Medical Centre.

"Sick people will be the victims of Labour's incompetence if the health system stays on its current track," Mr English said.

"New Zealand is heading toward a Second-World health status. Waiting lists are growing and hospitals are cutting services. The country's 21 district health boards have operating deficits of over $300m for 2001 and 2002, rising to $500m by the end of 2003.

"This is a hidden financial scandal on the scale of the BNZ.

"When National left Government the health sector had an operating surplus, now it's getting deeper into debt by the month. The only choices DHBs are making are where to cut in order to reduce the deficits.

"National will put together a financial rescue package to pay off the deficits so that DHBs can spend annual increases on new services not past debts. This will require significant capital injections. The Government is hiding crucial information so it is difficult to pin down specific figures.

"National will commit to significant annual increases. Government secrecy makes it hard to assess exactly what will be needed.

"We remain committed to a national network of hospital services, as outlined in the 1998 Hospital Services Plan.

"National will commit sufficient funds to pay off deficits so extra money can be applied to new services, not past debts.

"National is committed to a partnership between the private and public health sectors and will foster private sector investment into primary health care. We will allow private providers to charge a co-payment where appropriate.

"Mental health in New Zealand needs further development. Psychiatric patients have been dumped into prison cells this year. There have been cases of families being left out of care and treatment decisions, contributing to tragic results.

"We will place major emphasis on lifting mental health services for young people to widely agreed benchmarks.

"Deinstitutionalisation of mental health services has gone too far, to the point where vulnerable patients are being left to fend for themselves. National will increase the number of acute and medium-term rehabilitation inpatient beds.

"National will review the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act to address the powers and process of committal, and include a legal requirement to involve families of mental health patients in their care," Mr English said.

Ends


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