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Brash won’t say which health services he will cut

Hon Annette King
Minister of Health

20 July 2005 Media Statement

Brash won’t say which health services he will cut

National leader Don Brash must come clean on how much he will cut funding to specific health services and to pay and conditions for health professionals, says Health Minister Annette King.

“Make no mistake. Cuts are inevitable if Dr Brash gets his way. They are inevitable because he says he will only ring-fence Labour’s health spending to the end of 2005-06. Even over the next year, with his so-called ring-fence, cuts are inevitable because he says he will reprioritise spending,” she says.

“Everyone knows that reprioritisation is just a fancy word for cuts. You cannot reprioritise without taking money from one place and putting it in another. And to say he will ring-fence 2005-06 funding is actually meaningless because we have already started spending it anyway.”

Ms King says she has grave fears for New Zealand’s public health system if National gets the opportunity to start mutilating it again as it did in the 1990s.

“National makes no commitment to its level of health funding beyond 2005-06, except to say spending will go up. Dr Brash refuses to say, however, by how much it will go up, and he refuses to commit to the new baseline funding of $4.09 billion over the next four years this Government has already announced in the Health Funding Package. He won’t even commit to the $387.6 million set aside over the next four years to fund inflationary and demographic pressures.”

Ms King says many health commitments would “face the chop” under National. “If the forward funding path does not extend beyond 2005-06 let him tell New Zealanders just which of the following he would get rid of:

- The commitment to provide an extra 7500 cataract operations between 2005/06 and 2007/08.

- The nurses’ pay settlement --- District Health Boards would need to save $47 million per year from 2006/07 to pay wages agreed in the settlement.

- Inflation and demographic funding --- costs could not be absorbed without service cuts or some NGO providers ceasing to be viable.

- Funding to reduce the cost of primary health care visits and the cost of pharmaceuticals to people aged from 25 to 64.

- Funding of $133 million between 2006/07 and 2008/09 to continue the rollout of the mental health blueprint.

- The orthopaedic project designed to double the number of major hip and knee operations by 2007-08.

- Changes to the asset testing thresholds.

- The $35 million we are spending each year on the first stage of implementing the Cancer Control Strategy, including new cancer drugs, an expanded screening programme, hospice funding and prevention.

- The country’s largest-ever hospital rebuilding and refurbishment programme.

“Labour has given the health sector certainty of funding in the years ahead. All these services, programmes and health workforce initiatives are just the minimum that will occur under Labour. It is absolutely impossible for them all to survive National’s spending cuts.

“National will nurture one health service for the rich, and a half-baked voucher idea for the less well-off. But the reality is that most New Zealanders rely on a public health service, and they deserve to know exactly what Dr Brash plans to chop.”


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