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NZMA Welcomes Health Strategy

The New Zealand Medical Association welcomes the Government's strategic approach to health, as set out in the New Zealand Health Strategy which was released today.

"This strategic approach is necessary if health gains are to be made and barriers to health care overcome," said NZMA Chairman Dr Pippa MacKay.

The NZMA supports the introduction of specific health goals and objectives, including the 13 population health objectives which the Ministry of Health and the District Health Boards will focus on in the short to medium term. These include reducing smoking, reducing the incidence and impact of cancer, and ensuring access to appropriate child health care services.

The NZMA is particularly pleased at the inclusion of a focus on accessible and appropriate services for people living in rural areas. The initial Health Strategy discussion document made no mention of rural health issues, which the NZMA believed was a significant omission.

"There is increasing evidence showing major difficulties in access to, and availability of, services for people living in rural and regional areas," Dr MacKay said. "The impending GP crisis in Kaitaia is one example of this. For this Strategy to deliver on its goals and objectives, such as those relating to Maori, the regional and rural health sector must be a focus, and this must be extended into a comprehensive regional/rural health strategy."

Dr MacKay said the Strategy's objectives are set at a very high level, and the next step is to define how they are to be implemented.

"The Government has just passed legislation setting up 21 District Health Boards which have substantial freedom to adopt their own systems and frameworks for delivery of health services. We are pleased that the Health Strategy will be supported by more detailed strategic documents, which will help reduce fragmentation of health services at the very time when the Government is indicating it wishes to have better co-ordination and more collaboration within the health sector."

Dr MacKay said the NZMA cannot see how the objectives can be achieved within existing funding levels. "If we are right, then the Government needs to spell out clear funding strategies which show how much new funding is required, or where existing funds will be diverted from. Without funding strategies, these objectives may become just a 'wish list'."

The NZMA is also concerned that the private health sector is not addressed in any way in the Strategy. The private sector is a significant provider of primary and secondary services, and the interface between publicly funded services and private services need to be clearly defined.

ENDS

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