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Investment In Health Workforce Needs To Follow Budget Boost

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Toi Mata Hauora says the Government is showing real commitment in trying to correct decades of underfunding in health, but it shouldn’t forget the commitment of the people who keep the system going.

This year’s Budget has delivered a $4.7 billion dollar increase in health spending, boosted by funding for Covid and health system restructuring.

“We are pleased to hear this will be the first of three Budgets along these lines, because despite some uplift in funding, health services will continue to struggle to get ahead of growing patient demand,” says ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton.

“On the face of it the increase looks significant and is very welcome. However, we estimate it’s about $280 million short of what is needed to just stand still. It doesn’t take into account population pressures, the cost of new initiatives, or enable DHBs to balance their books”.

“Last year’s Budget injection for health went largely unnoticed at the coalface and this year’s could likely be the same, given the long starve the system has suffered for many years.”

Sarah Dalton says the pressures on the health system are not just financial because at the end of the day the system relies on the skills and commitment of health workers.

“Senior doctors, nurses and many other specialised health workers are combatting serious staffing shortages which impact heavily on waiting lists and patient care”.

“If the Government really wants ‘world class public services’ it needs to invest significantly more in the people who provide them,” she says.

ASMS welcomes the Budget’s focus on tackling poverty and greater investment in social welfare initiatives, as poverty is a key determinant of people’s health and wellbeing.

However, there are some concerns about the level of investment in public health due to the focus on Covid-19.

“We still have serious infectious diseases and numerous poverty related illnesses which need attention,” Sarah Dalton says.

ASMS also believes the initial price tag of $500 million for the Government’s health reforms is likely to be conservative.

“We believe the final cost of the reforms could go much higher and we don’t want to see the costs outweigh the benefits,” Sarah Dalton says.

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