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Health Debt Shocker To Spark Surgery Cutbacks

Health Debt Shocker To Spark Surgery Cutbacks

Spiralling health sector debt, and the worst rolling annual deficits on record, are set to spark major cuts in elective services across the country, ACT New Zealand Health Spokesman Heather Roy said today.

"Figures released today confirm the operating deficit for the 12 months to December 2002 totalled $282.5 million - the worst ever recorded for a 12-month period," Mrs Roy said.

"What is more worrying is the increase to total health sector indebtedness - long-term debt and liabilities topped a billion dollars in December, for the first time. Total liabilities and debt stand at $1.9 billion - up $600 million since Labour took office in 1999.

"Clearly, despite Health Minister Annette King's talk of extra funding, there are significant financial pressures which Health Boards are wrestling to cope with.

"As well as inflationary impacts on wage costs and medical supplies, Boards are expected to implement the Government's push to see PHOs established across the country. Also, a large portion of the extra funding was required for `catch-up', due to Labour's 2001 decision to cut the level of real per capita health funding.

"Something clearly has to give, and I have long warned that it will be elective services. This is the only significant room that DHBs have in which to move. Those awaiting elective surgery will bear the brunt of any cuts required to meet Government budget constraints.

"There are already many thousands of people suffering on waiting lists - many forced to wait beyond clinically safe time limits. Yet DHBs are increasingly indicating that elective services will be cut to meet the budget constraints.

"I predict that these cuts will be foreshadowed in DHB annual plans, and that Ms King will sign off those cuts personally.

"The looming cuts to elective surgery go a long way to explaining why the Minister has effectively dis-established the waiting list and replaced it with a care and review category which effectively hides true numbers of people awaiting treatment," Mrs Roy said.

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