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U-turns aplenty in National Party health policy

10 October 2006

U-turns aplenty in National Party health policy

Tony Ryall's u-turns continue to mount as the National Party limps on without an agreed health policy, Health Minister Pete Hodgson said today.

The Minister's comments follow high-profile flip-flops from the National Party on elective surgery policy over the past week.

"It's getting hard to know what position Tony Ryall will take from one day to the next," Pete Hodgson said. "All that can be certain is that he will be angrily opposed to any idea put forward by anyone in the health sector – he appears to have embraced the title of Opposition Health Spokesman a bit more literally than intended.

"Last week alone, he contradicted his current party leader, the former Health Minister who he shares the front bench with, and himself. The National Party health policy vacuum has always been an embarrassment, but it’s now becoming an increasingly public joke."

Tony Ryall last week came out against extra funding for elective surgery despite the fact that his Party had pledged to increase funding for electives by $100 million at last year's election.

Ryall has also said it won't be possible for the government to boost elective surgery numbers even with the extra funding after having spent the past year saying that the government's top priority should be to "boost the amount of elective surgery."

Adding to this embarrassment is the fact that Ryall has unilaterally come out in opposition to treating patients in no more than six months. This not only flies in the face of former National Health Ministers Bill English and Jenny Shipley who created the policy, but current National Party Leader Don Brash.

At last year's infamous National health "policy" launch during the campaign, Don Brash said that making patients wait more than six months for surgery would lead to "greater complications" and said that his "…main concern is simply that operations are performed as soon as possible."

"Any credibility that Tony Ryall ever had is now shot. He should either develop a real National Party Health Policy or allow whoever replaces Don Brash to appoint a new health spokesman."

ENDS

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