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Over two million New Zealanders belong to PHOs

Annette King: More than two million New Zealanders belong to Primary Health Organisations

Health Minister Annette King says more than two million New Zealanders belong to Primary Health Organisations from today, with more than one in four New Zealanders now having access to low-cost primary health care.

Ms King visited one of New Zealand’s largest PHOs, HealthWEST in West Auckland, today to announce the establishment of seven more PHOs, bringing the total to 53 PHOs since the first were established on July 1 last year.

“This Government is absolutely committed to building strong public services, and primary health care is one of the most important of those services,” said Ms King.

“Today is particularly significant in the short history of PHOs, because from today all 6-17 year olds enrolled in PHOs will be funded to receive low-cost health care. This new initiative will affect an estimated 297,000 more young New Zealanders covered by PHOs.

“From July 1 next year all over 65s enrolled in PHOs will also be funded to receive low-cost health care. By then, it is estimated more than 200,000 older people will be in that category. We are now really making strides in our ambition to make quality primary health care affordable and accessible for all New Zealanders.”

Ms King said that the fact that PHOs now covered more than two million New Zealanders was a major achievement after just 15 months, and reflected the enthusiasm and efforts of many people in the health sector.

“PHOs have the very real potential to improve the overall health of all New Zealanders and reduce the unacceptable health inequalities that affect different groups of New Zealanders, particularly Maori, Pacific and low-income people.

“From today, there will be a total of 34 PHOs with extra Government funding to look after our high-need population groups, making a real difference with those people who need it most.

“But the significant investment this Government is making into the future health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders is not only about dollars and how we deliver affordable health care. It’s also about primary care providers in PHOs changing the way they work to find innovative approaches to keep their populations well within their community and out of hospital,” she said.

“Already we’re seeing exciting new plans around chronic disease management for conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. We’re also seeing good examples of teamwork with a variety of health professionals working together.”

Ms King said the potential benefits for New Zealanders who enrol with and stay with their regular primary health care provider are huge.

“International evidence backs up the importance of this sort of continuity of care where the PHO team gets to know their regulars and better understands and caters for their health needs, and people enrolled with PHOs can tell them about the services they want.’’

Seventeen of the country’s 21 district health boards (DHB) now have at least one PHO and Ms King said PHO plans were underway in the remaining DHB areas.

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