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Hodgson invites reality to electives debate

1 May 2006 Media Statement

Hodgson invites reality to electives debate

It is time to inject some much-needed reality into the debate on elective surgery, Health Minister Pete Hodgson said today.

Following his first major speech since picking up the health portfolio just over six months ago, Pete Hodgson said that the active campaign to undermine confidence in the public health system needed to be properly scrutinised.

"We've now had weeks of crisis mongering on elective surgery," Pete Hodgson said. "It's been an impressive display from the friends of privatisation, but it bears little resemblance to reality.

"It's now time we all started asking questions of those who are desperate to undermine confidence in our public health system.

"We need to be asking about their motivations and intentions. It's not enough to weave a web of anecdotes and numbers together to try to paint a 'crisis' – we should be demanding that fulltime critics at least try to engage with reality."

Issuing a range of statistics on elective surgery both in New Zealand and internationally, Pete Hodgson said that New Zealanders should be proud of their elective surgery system, but should continue to expect improvements.

The figures released in his speech include:

- Total hospital discharges in New Zealand are 26 per cent higher than the OECD median – we are behind France and the UK, but ahead of Australia, the US, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada
- Hip replacements have increased by 24 per cent since the change of government
- Knee replacements have increased by 52 per cent
- Cataract procedures are down slightly, but will increase by 40 per cent over the next two and a half years
- Bypass grafts are slightly down, but have been substantially replaced by a 75 per cent increase in angioplasties
- Overall there were 106,000 elective surgical procedures recorded in 2005 – this figure excludes the growing number of surgical outpatient procedures

"We need to continue to improve, but we have reason to be confident in the overall state of elective surgery. I look forward to a growing appreciation of context and reality as our national discussion on electives continues."

ENDS

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