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'Free’ scheme needs careful analysis

Annette King
Social Policy Spokesperson

Grant Robertson
Health Spokesperson

27 October 2011

‘Free’ scheme needs careful analysis

National’s free after-hours health care for children under six typically comes with hooks, Labour’s Social Policy spokesperson and Deputy Leader Annette King says.

“Extending free medical care to after-hours services had to happen. The Government’s relentless focus on cost-cutting has seen hundreds of kids missing out on treatment because their parents and care givers couldn’t afford the fees.

“But just putting a scheme in place is not enough. It is estimated New Zealand now has a staggering 270,000 children living in poverty. Around half of those are Maori or Pasifika and they have two to three times poorer health than other New Zealanders,” Annette King said.

“We need to ensure all our kids get the best start in life. Families are not just struggling to pay medical bills. There’s food, and fuel, and heating and clothing…the list goes on.”

Labour’s Health spokesperson, Grant Robertson, said the latest announcement did not guarantee that every local GP clinic would buy into the free after-hours scheme.

“The Minister also talks about the scheme being funded by ‘efficiencies elsewhere in the system’.

“That means more cuts from a budget that has already been cut by millions,” Grant Robertson said.

“Tony Ryall needs to be transparent about what services he’ll be stripping as a consequence of not providing extra funding for this new scheme.”

“He says there will be alternatives within ‘a reasonable distance’ available, but there’s no guarantee of that either. What does ‘reasonable distance’ mean? It may mean some children will still be missing out on treatment,” Grant Robertson said.

Annette King said Labour had a full agenda for children that would eliminate child poverty which would be announced in the coming weeks.

ENDS

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