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Patients play piggy in the middle

Dr Lynda Scott National Health Spokesperson

15 October 2003

Patients play piggy in the middle

The Government is backing away from reports of blanket policies to exclude people from many operations that New Zealanders expect to be publicly funded.

National Health Spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott today released letters showing the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) has drastically reduced its number of elective surgery hernia operations, and is stopping patients being referred for first specialist assessments regardless of how bad their symptoms are, due to a lack of funding.

"Health Minister Annette King says she disagrees with these 'blanket' policies, but boards have no choice because of her funding restrictions. This Minister is responsible for the provision of these services and blanket bans are denying patients and their GPs any hope.

"Who exactly is running the health system when this health board says it can't do these operations because of funding constraints, and the Minister says the board is breaching Government policy by not doing them?

"I'm also concerned the Government is misleading the public over the number of hernia operations being carried out.

"Today in Parliament Associate Minister Ruth Dyson said Waikato Hospital performed more than 500 hernia operations in 2001-02, but last month the Minister said the figure was 360 for 2001-02, and 319 for 2002-03. Waikato DHB says it carried out 42 elective operations in the 12 months to July 2003.

"The Minister is winding New Zealand's health service back to a third-world status, but leaving it to boards like Waikato to take the flak from desperate patients who can't get operations.

"If the Minister is rationing services why doesn't she be honest about it and admit it, instead of hanging it on a health board that she refuses to fund," Dr Scott said.


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