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Govt Changes in Health Priorities Short Sighted

Media Release:

Government Changes in Health Priorities Short Sighted

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is calling on the government to rethink its decision to cut some key areas in health care from district health boards’ priorities. Mental health, obesity action and oral health – all areas where New Zealand is lagging well behind internationally - are no longer among DHBs’ priorities.

In 2007, only 52 per cent of five-year-olds were caries free, ie without missing, decayed or filled teeth.

“Oral health is tremendously important to a child’s overall well-being and with statistics like these, it is hard to understand how the government has dropped oral health from DHBs’core objectives,” said professional services manager Susanne Trim.

She also pointed out that Maori children are disproportionately represented in poor oral health statistics.

Trim also condemned the fact that mental health is no longer a DHB priority. “Over recent years there have been countless tragedies involving mental health patients. Just last week, near tragedy was averted in a mental health unit when a patient armed with a gun resulted in the police armed offenders squad call-out. Our members report the need for mental health services is increasing, not decreasing. For mental health to no longer be a top DHB priority will most certainly impact on communities, as well as individuals,” she said.

Trim was also critical of the fact improving nutrition, increasing physical activity and reducing obesity were no longer top priorities. “These public health measures are all aimed at preventing the development of chronic conditions, which are a considerable drain on health resources. To remove them as priorities is short-sighted and will jeopardise future long-term health gains,” she said.

While NZNO appreciated the Minister wanted to cut unnecessary bureaucracy and reporting, and put more resources into frontline health services, the services that have been removed as DHB priorities were all important services.

NZNO is also concerned that increasing the workload of frontline staff, without a concomitant increase in staff and other resources, will simply increase the burden on existing nursing staff, who are already struggling with workloads.

ENDS

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