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Nat health policy: Intentions good, figures wrong

A Grey Power Media Release: 8 September 2005

Intentions good - figures wrong, says Grey Power on National Health Policy

“If nothing else, the National Party has at least recognised the plight of the aged care industry, by moving to allocate funding to relieve the hardship for both those receiving care, and those providing care,” says Graham Stairmand, national president of Grey Power.

“Aged care funding has deteriorated into a serious state of affairs for much too long. Both the “Ageing in Place” philosophy and the “Needs Assessment and Service Coordination” (itself a National Government programme) are being largely ignored. Today, cost, not patients, is clearly the main concern.

“While the intention is good, National’s proposed $24 million inflation adjustment, plus the additional $35 million to cover past under-funding is less than a tenth of the money required just to bring nurses and caregivers on par with public hospital staff,” Mr Stairmand says. “For an elected government responsible for the health care of all its citizens, this just is not good enough. National needs to rethink their figures.

“Ongoing critical staff shortages in the aged care sector will not be helped by the return of the Employment Contracts Act, which merely assures much of the money winds up in the pockets of overseas corporate providers,” he says.

Mr Stairmand says the proposed increase in elective surgery funding “is welcome, but we doubt the effectiveness of $100 million spread over more than 20,000 backlogged operations. This averages to $5000 per operation. A single hip operation alone costs about $13,000.

Mr Stairmand says the boost of $75 million to Pharmac over the next three years to expand the availability of new drugs, and the $19 million to fund homecare workers’ travel costs is both necessary and appreciated.

“But, while any additional help is good, National must guarantee to maintain the present level of basic health funding beyond this year. Otherwise the more cynically disposed might assume this is just another election bribe?

“Health care is a fact of life that is critical to the very young and the very old, Mr Stairmans says. Good intentions are not good enough.”

New Zealand Grey Power has more than 90,000 active members, and is recognised as a leading support organization for many of the more than three-quarters of a million retired New Zealanders. Grey Power maintains strict neutrality during the election campaign, but will respond with support and information that affects its members.


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