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Paying patients to go away not a solution

David Clark
MP for Dunedin North

18 July 2014

Paying patients to go away not a solution

A voucher system being used by emergency departments in Southern DHB - which pays patients to see a GP – is designed to skew figures to meet Government targets, Dunedin North MP David Clark says.

It follows reports of Counties Manukau police recoding some 700 burglaries, so they were not recorded in crime statistics.

“Southern DHB patients who can afford to visit their doctor before presenting at the emergency department are promised a fast track through the ED process. Those who go straight to the ED because they can’t afford to visit their GP will now get sent off to their doctor with a voucher for a free visit. Effectively they’re paid to go away.

“I understand that they will only get a voucher on presentation of their community services card. There are plenty of people without a card who are financially stretched. Nurses are trained to assess health issues not financial status.

“This perverse approach is yet another band aid. The problem wouldn’t exist if health care was properly funded.

“Southern DHB currently ranks second-to-bottom against three of the government’s health targets (including ED waiting time), yet the DHB’s primary focus continues to be cost-cutting. Services have been cut to the bone. How does any of this reflect a DHB committed to the provision of good, quality health care?

“DHB staff continue to do an admirable job under increasingly trying circumstances, yet one of two senior executives at the DHB taken off regular duties has been asked to focus on savings in the area of quality.

“Cutting quality is the answer to a question that shouldn’t need to be asked. At a time when the Southern DHB is lagging behind virtually every other DHB in so many areas, surely it should be looking to invest in quality, rather than targeting that area for potential cost-savings. All of this is a response to this government’s chronic underfunding of health in the south.

“The DHB’s deficit is now expected to rise from an initial $9 million projected shortfall to just shy of $14 million. Labour has already committed to reviewing the population-based funding formula, if elected, to ensure that the likes of Southern DHB – geographically the largest in the country – is getting its fair share of the national health budget,” David Clark says.

ENDS

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