Act would butcher public health system
"A core commitment for Labour is to put the health focus on patients, not profit, and to cut waiting times for surgery. A Labour government will end the market-driven experiment in health."
Helen Clark is focusing on health issues today during a visit to Christchurch, where she will open new premises for the New Zealand College of Midwives.
Helen Clark said that if health spending was only CPI-adjusted, as promised by Act, by the 2004/05 financial year health spending would be at least $641 million a year lower than under the formula Labour is proposing.
"Even compared with National's approach to funding, Act's cuts would slash $443 million a year from health.
"Act needs to come clean. Will they cut elective surgery, mental health or services for the elderly in order to fund the shortfall?
"New Zealanders' health needs continue to grow. There will always be more people who need operations. Jenny Shipley's Government now has 68,000 New Zealanders on waiting lists for elective surgery, after 78,000 were taken off the lists in the past year.
"National and Act have three choices if they want to pursue the Budget-freezing, tax-cutting agenda. They can let the waiting lists blow out to enormous lengths, they can kick more people off the lists, or they can sacrifice other health services for the sake of surgery.
"Labour will increase the money available for elective surgery to provide certainty about when people will get the surgery they need."
Helen Clark said another it was another sign of the failure of the Government's nine-year market experiment that more and more money was being spent on "overhead" expenses rather than health care.
"Wyatt Creech says there's been too much change in health and that the sector should now be left alone. But the wastage in the current system cannot be allowed to continue. Previously unavailable figures from the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit (CCMAU) reveal the extent of the problem.
"Partly as a result of its forced amalgamation with Tauranga, over 30 per cent of the spending by Whakatane-based EastBay Health went on overhead expenses in the first quarter of 1999. The definition of overhead expenses includes the cost of administration and debt servicing.
"Overheads also gobbled up more than a quarter of the funding for Western Bay Health, Wairarapa Health, Taranaki Healthcare and Nelson-Marlborough Health. The figure was over per cent for MidCentral Health, Healthlink South, Healthcare Otago and Coast Health Care. Across all Hospitals, the average is 18.62% - and that's a figure which is climbing.
"On top of this waste is the $104 million budget for the Health Funding Authority. Labour's plan to scrap the HFA will save the taxpayer tens of millions of dollars and Labour will introduce more efficiency and accountability throughout the health system.
"Health dollars should be spent on health services; not on bureaucrats, red tape, interest charges and returning a dividend to the Government," Helen Clark said.