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Consumer takes Ministry of Health to task

13 December 2006

Consumer takes Ministry of Health to task

Consumer has hit back at Ministry of Health claims on the availability of elective surgery.

In a recent article Consumer said some non-urgent operations were no longer treated by the public system.

The Ministry countered by saying that who received what from public hospitals was decided on relative needs of patients and not any particular condition.

Consumer chief executive, David Russell says the Ministry is fudging the issue.

“The Ministry’s own website supports the claims we made in the Consumer article. For example, Northland DHB’s referral guidelines explicitly state that some varicose vein treatments will not be publicly funded. Add to that the recent decision by Hutt DHB to stop performing any breast reductions and it becomes clear that in some parts of New Zealand decisions on elective surgery are being made based on ailments and not clinical need.”

“The Ministry also claims that the case studies we cited do not demonstrate a problem with elective services. While we accept that cancellations are part of a public health system, our case study showed that the actions of one DHB contravened a Health and Disability ruling on acceptable practice for elective services. It’s hard to see how the Ministry can claim fairness, timeliness and clarity are cornerstones of its booking system, when cancellations are common,” said Russell.

Russell says that Consumer applauds government efforts to boost funding for elective services. However, he claims there are still issues to be resolved over the availability of publicly funded services.

He said Consumer stands by its story, which drew on Ministry sources, Official Information Act data and independent research.


Full text of this article is available in the December issue of Consumer magazine and at

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