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Dedicated Health Tax Needed Despite "Surplus"

Media Release

Attention : Industrial/Political reporters

Sunday 3 July 2005

Dedicated Health Tax Still Needed Despite “Surplus”

“The Alliance would push for a targeted increase in health funding through a dedicated health levy of 1%, which would add around $900 million to Vote Health - and allow health workers to be paid a liveable wage,” said Paul Piesse, co-leader of the Alliance party today. He was commenting on the tax debate that has followed the 2005 Budget.

“The so called $7b surplus is built off the back of underpaid health workers. Nurses in public hospitals have caught up, but there are thousands of caregivers and other support workers earning $10 to $12 an hour and working excessive hours just to make ends meet,” said Paul Piesse. “Their wages need to be lifted to a health sector minimum wage of $15 per hour as in England. “

“Public hospitals also cut costs by contracting out cleaning, security, laundry and kitchen services to private profit companies that cut the workers’ hours and take away their overtime rates,” said Paul Piesse. “The Government funds services such as aged and Intellectually Disabled care, and the Alliance would require providers to match the public sector in pay rates. The levy would be used to employ all cleaners, laundry workers, kitchen staff and security staff in public hospitals on national pay and conditions.”

“The Alliance sees the levy also being used to provide free doctors’ consultations, free hearing and eye tests, and free dental check-ups. It would also help remove prescription charges, and reduce waiting lists and help pay for public health initiatives. It would keep remaining rural hospitals open and allow us to plan hospital services so that 90% of New Zealanders are less than 60 minutes away by road.”

“The tax debate at present is built on false premises – if health workers were paid a liveable wage and services were adequate and free, then much of the surplus would disappear,” said Paul Piesse.

ENDS

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