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We Need a Public/Private Partnership in Health

Monday 8 Jul 2002

Speech by Hon Richard Prebble CBE, Leader ACT New Zealand

At the launch of ACT's health policy

At Wakefield Hospital, Florence Street, Newtown, Wellington

On Monday 8th July 2002, at 11.30am

The ACT Party has come to Wakefield Hospital to launch our health policy for this year's election campaign, in order to make a point.

The only solution to the issues facing health is a public/private partnership.

In no area of Labour's record has its performance been so far from its promise, as in health. Last election, Labour promised to cut hospital waiting lists but has instead reduced the lists by creating a new category - "under urgent review" - and referring other patients back to their GPs.

The government refuses even to keep a record of the number of patients whom it has excluded from the waiting lists. Hospital boards have told me that the real number of patients waiting for treatment has never been greater.

Doctors have told me they know patients who will die before they are treated - and yet this government is conning them into believing they are going to get treatment.

Everyone knows the only solution is to the use the capabilities of both the public and private sectors.

I have come here today on behalf of the ACT Party to issue a patients' guarantee. ACT's guarantee is that when patients have been waiting past the medically acceptable safe time for treatment, ACT will require hospital boards to refer those patients to a private hospital for their operation, treatment or service - at the taxpayers' expense.

Let me give an example in Wellington. Two hundred and twenty patients are now waiting in Wellington for heart operations beyond the medically acceptable safe time of six months. At least two patients on waiting lists, I understand, have died.

ACT would require Capital Coast Health to refer patients who have been waiting longer than six months to the private sector for their operation.

I know this would work because when I was MP for Wellington Central I discovered the hospital waiting list for heart patients was dangerously long. One of my best friends had died waiting on that list. The surgeon told his family that if he had received his bypass operation, he would almost certainly be alive today.

My investigations showed not only was there capacity in the private sector to carry out the operations of patients waiting on the public list, but also that the cost of private treatment was lower.

After considerable lobbying by myself, Capital Coast Health issued a contract to the private sector and in less than a year, the dangerous list was removed.

But under the new ideological "only the public sector is any good" Labour government, that contract has been cancelled and patients are now dying unnecessarily again.

The Gibbs Report found 20 years ago that the most cost-efficient public hospital is more expensive than the most inefficient private hospital, so ACT's policy will save money.

Indeed the Gibbs Report conclusion is still true today, that by using the private sector's resources we can eliminate all hospital waiting lists for the same expenditure that we waste today.


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