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Papers Reveal Primary Health Strategy Problems

Papers Reveal Primary Health Strategy Problems

Friday 30 Aug 2002 Heather Roy Press Releases -- Health

Briefing papers for the Health Minister released today show that Labour's new primary healthcare strategy will segregate New Zealand and force low-income families into ghettoes, ACT Health Spokesman Heather Roy said today.

"The papers show that the Government's primary healthcare strategy has persisting problems. Their new funding method is unfair and will lead to the creation of low-income ghettoes. Labour is opposed to the Community Services Card because it sees individual income testing as a blunt measure. Labour is instead planning to fund entire populations geographically, which creates inequality.

"Without the Community Services Card, poor people living in a rich area will have to pay through the nose for healthcare. In an embarrassing move for the Minister, her officials tell her: "Over the short term, the way that PHOs will be funded will not treat all like individuals in the same way". First Labour forced schools to introduce zoning, and now they are going to apply this elitist ideology to healthcare. The result is segregated education and healthcare.

"Annette King is now forced to awkwardly retain the Community Services Card - today's briefing papers reveal it will probably never be scrapped, and certainly not within at least "the next 8-10 years". Because she's also determined to bring in a geographic model, she is committing New Zealanders to paying for two separate healthcare funding systems, and the complete chaos that will ensue as a result.

"Surprisingly, the establishment of PHOs is increasingly referred to as "voluntary". This apparent change in strategy creates further questions as to whether the Community Services Card could ever be scrapped, and raises new problems. Voluntary establishment of PHOs will fragment institutional knowledge and lead to dangerous mistakes being repeated around the entire country. The Minister is warned: "There is a risk that the sector does not learn from any PHO activities that are less successful."

"Unsurprisingly with such an unfair and under-resourced system, DHBs are moving slowly so the roll-out of PHOs is behind schedule. In the briefing papers, the Minister is told: "Given PHO establishment is voluntary it is difficult to be certain about the rate of PHO establishment".

"The under-resourcing tipped by the officials in these papers means increased pressure on hospitals as DHBs are forced to shift their funding to their new PHOs. One of the greatest threats to the sensible idea of putting more emphasis on primary care is that already tight hospital budgets have to be further tightened as capped funding to primary care increases . This can only mean cuts to hospital services as we are seeing daily.

"These papers reveal a deepening future for primary healthcare in New Zealand, especially for those in poverty," Mrs Roy 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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