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Specialist care contracting to big cities

Tony Ryall MP
National Party Health Spokesman

10 July 2008

Specialist care contracting to big cities under Labour

There is more evidence today that under Labour, specialist healthcare is contracting to the big cities, with warnings of a critical shortage of obstetricians and gynaecologists.

National Party Health spokesman Tony Ryall says healthcare by postcode is fast becoming a reality as the Labour Government refuses to accept there’s any health workforce crisis.

Mr Ryall is referring to reports which say a critical shortage of obstetricians and gynaecologists will soon mean emergency procedures are done only in cities, with workforce difficulties in many regional centres.

West Coast District Health Board will have no obstetricians available next month, and Whanganui District Health Board yesterday said it would have limited obstetric cover this weekend because of a shortage of obstetricians and gynaecologists.

"This warning is very, very serious. A leading professional group is telling New Zealanders that services can't be maintained in the regions. Women will have to travel further and longer to get the standard of care they expect.

"Instead of dealing with the issue, Labour continues to deny the health workforce crisis. At the Health Select Committee, the Health Minister denied there was a crisis but said the situation ‘needs improvement’.

“This workforce crisis will inevitably put the safety of mum and baby at risk, unless the Minister starts taking the situation seriously. We’ve seen little evidence that he will, since he refuses to accept there’s any crisis whatsoever.

“Labour’s done at least 48 workforce reports since it came to office. It's clear that Mr Cunliffe is leaving any action on this crisis for an incoming government.”

National's health discussion paper, 'Better, Sooner, More Convenient', proposes a number of measures to start tackling the health workforce crisis.

They include moving to medical training self-sufficiency, investigating bonding and student-loan write-offs for health professionals working in hard-to-staff areas, lowering personal taxes, and re-engaging doctors and nurses in the running of the health system.


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