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Nats Health Policy Barely Registers A Pulse

1 July 2002

Health Minister Annette King says the National Party’s health policy is high on rhetoric, low on detail, and offers no comfort to the voting public.

“For National to say it would offer a ‘rescue package’ to District Health Boards to deal with deficits – using figures that National itself has dreamed up – but without giving any detail whatsoever about what that package includes, is typical National rhetoric.

“And to talk of a ‘rescue package’ over and above the funding path that Labour has put in place is irresponsible nonsense. No government can have an open chequebook for health, and the Nats know this only too well.

“Labour, on the other hand, is putting in place realistic and sustainable health funding. This Government is putting $500 million more into health in the 2002/03 financial year, and we have a capital investment programme worth more than $2 billion over four years. This is seeing new hospitals being built and old facilities being refurbished.

“We are not interested in perpetuating the health cuts started by the last National government. But we do expect DHBs to be looking hard at how they can spend money to the best effect. And that may well mean doing things differently and innovatively.”

Ms King said National’s so-called mental health policy “flies in the face of comments made by the retiring Jenny Shipley, that the National party’s greatest achievement in health in the 1990s was the de-institutionalisation of mental health patients. The problem has been a lack of resources to go with that policy.

“This Government has committed $257 million extra in funding over a four year period to implement the Mental Health Commission’s Blueprint. Where is their commitment? National’s mental health policy hasn’t been thought through, and they need to spend more time working with communities, and the mentally unwell and their families.”

She said it was ironic that National was calling for more beds for mental health patients, on the very day that she opened the new adolescent mental health inpatient unit at Porirua – the first such facility to be opened in more than 30 years. “What happened to adolescent mental health services under the last decade of a National-led government? No new beds or assistance, that’s for certain.”

Ms King said there was nothing of any note in National’s health policy, because they knew that they didn’t stand a chance of getting into power. “This is the policy of a party that doesn’t treat health seriously. National is more interested in bumper stickers than effective policy.”
Ends

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