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PQ 7. Health, Minister—Statements

7. Health, Minister—Statements
[Sitting date: 24 July 2014. Volume:700;Page:5. Text is subject to correction.]
7. Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Health : Does he stand by his statement that resources in Budget 2014 “will help us continue to improve frontline health services for New Zealanders”?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration) on behalf of the Minister of Health : Yes. The best example of this is free doctor visits and prescriptions for under-13-year-olds from July next year, with 400,000 children benefiting. The member will be interested to hear that we have been able to afford this because we have turned around Labour’s district health board deficit of $200 million to just $20 million.
Hon Annette King : In light of that answer, why, then, are orthopaedic patients referred to the Hutt Valley District Health Board being told that only urgent cases can now be done, and is that the improvement New Zealanders would get under a National Government?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : In respect of orthopaedic services, a lot of work has been done to ensure that only the most urgent cases are referred to orthopaedic specialists. The general practitioners with special interests programme has been a very good strategy for making sure that there is an appropriate filter through which patients are referred. Indeed, as a consequence of smart thinking by this Government, significant increases in elective surgery, including orthopaedic surgery, have been achieved.
Hon Annette King : In light of that answer, then, have orthopaedic operations increased or decreased per 100,000 of population under a National Government in the following district health boards: Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Capital and Coast, Northland, Tairāwhiti, Wairarapa, West Coast, and South Canterbury—in other words, half of the district health boards?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Obviously, that is a very detailed question for which I do not have the answer to hand, but I would be very happy to reply if the member would put it down in writing.
Hon Annette King : I could answer it all if you like, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member might have to wait for the luck of a general election to have the opportunity.
Hon Annette King : If there is sufficient funding in Budget 2014, why is the Waikato District Health Board telling health professionals that services involving psychologists have increased beyond their capacity to deliver, and children with autism spectrum disorder, learning difficulties, and intellectual disabilities will have to wait longer for appointments, and is that an improvement for kids in New Zealand under a National Government?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Obviously I would have to go and fact-check the paraphrasing that the member has included in his question, but what I would say is that under this Government, district health boards—
Hon Members : Her.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Did I say “his”? I do apologise—her question. But I can say that under this Government, district health boards have been innovative in ensuring that they can produce much more output for a moderate increase in budget, and they have been spectacularly successful in doing so.
Hon Annette King : Was Treasury correct in its recently released Budget report when it said “The funding package requires a very real challenge to district health boards, and given the fiscal environment there is a risk of longer waiting times for patients and unforeseen health consequences .”?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Obviously, the calculations of an appropriate budget increase to meet the changing needs of New Zealanders, including an ageing and different geographic and ethnic mix, is always a very complicated process. Nevertheless, we have been able to achieve significant increases, and I should point out that doing the same thing year in year out would have got us the same result, which is why, under this Government, we have been innovative in investing in things like increasing childhood immunisation, investing in rheumatic fever management, and warming up our homes, so that we prevent those conditions from occurring in the first place.
Hon Annette King : Were district health boards told that Budget 2014 funding was for demographic pressures, with “a contribution to cost pressures”, and has that led to district health boards offering a 0.7 percent pay increase to staff, while inflation is predicted to be 2.2 percent in 2014-15, according to Treasury?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : In respect of the first half of the question, although I cannot verify the quote, I have no reason to suspect that it is incorrect, because, indeed, that was what the budgetary increase was designed to achieve. But as I say, we have been very impressed with the manner in which district health boards have been able to do a lot more with a little more.

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