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Significant milestone in reform of electives

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Health

10 November 2006 Media Statement

Significant milestone in reform of elective surgery

Over two-thirds of District Health Boards now have fair and effective elective surgery booking systems in place with the remaining boards on track to achieve the same result by year's end, Health Minister Pete Hodgson announced today.

Pete Hodgson said this was the most significant achievement to date in the reform of elective surgery policy that began under the National-led government in the late 1990s.

"All New Zealanders deserve to be treated with honesty and respect when they come into contact with our public health system," Pete Hodgson said. "For decades, elective surgery has been an aspect of our health system that has too often failed to live up to this standard.

"It had been too easy to put someone on a waiting list without proper prioritisation to make sure that those treated were the most in need. People have too often been told they would get treatment just because saying 'no' was too difficult for all involved, regardless of a DHB's actual ability to provide treatment.

"That's why the National-led government introduced the booking system policy and that's why the Labour-led government has worked to get it implemented. The implementation process has been frustrating for many patients who DHBs belatedly had to tell they could not be treated.

"From now on, it is my hope that when a person is referred to a specialist or to a hospital for an elective procedure our DHBs will be up front about their ability to provide treatment from the beginning. That's what patients deserve.

"I've already announced that the government will invest $200 million over four years to provide elective procedures to 10,000 additional people a year. The money will only be made available to DHBs that maintain fair and effective booking systems. Already, 6,000 more New Zealanders received elective surgery last year than in 1999.

14 DHBs met the government's deadline for full implementation of fair and effective booking systems by 30 September. Hutt Valley, Southland and Tairawhiti did not.

Four boards - Mid Central, West Coast, Canterbury and Waikato - appear to have met the deadline, but data issues are making their status unclear.

"The DHBs that did not meet the 30 September deadline expect to complete implementation by the end of the year, at which point they will become eligible for the new funding.

"I will provide regular public updates on this issue over the next few months so that everyone knows whether all DHBs have achieved, and maintained, a fair booking system."


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