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Waiting List Culls Hide Real Problem

Media Release

15 August 2006

Waiting List Culls Hide Real Problem

Reducing waiting lists by throwing patients back into the care of their GPs is like a lazy gardener pruning a shrub with a chainsaw, says New Zealand First’s health spokesperson Barbara Stewart.

“As long as the end result is small enough it doesn’t matter that the shrub may be distinctly unhealthy.

“Periodic pruning of the waiting lists may satisfy the Minister and balance the Ministry’s books but it does nothing to improve the quality of life of those who are referred back to their over-worked and frustrated GPs.

“The Minister regards the culling of patients from waiting lists as being evidence of an open and transparent health system. Patients who can be removed from waiting lists at the stroke of a pen – or by the writing of a letter – obviously weren’t that sick in the first place.

“What we should be worrying about is that the Minister and his little helpers seem to have little idea of how much unmet need actually exists in the community. Action on this front consists of those old favourites of setting up interminable working parties or “challenging the DHBs to find ways to address these areas”. All care and no responsibility as usual.

“However appealing the chainsaw approach may be it’s time this particular health problem was removed from the too-hard basket.

“We need to know the size of the problem and responsibility for quantifying the need must rest fairly and squarely with the Minister of Health and his ministry,” said Mrs Stewart.


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