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Associate health minister dodging A&E charge issue

Associate health minister dodging the issue of A&E charges

The response of Associate Health Minister and West Coast M.P. Damien O’Connor to West Coast DHB proposals to charge for A&E services is either a case of blissful ignorance of what is going in the public health system or a deliberate misleading of the public, according to Democrats for Social Credit health spokesman David Tranter.

Mr. O’Connor’s statement, “He was not aware of any other health board in the country charging for any level of health care at their emergency departments” (Greymouth Evening Star, 25 November) flies in the face of advice I have received since the news of the DHB’s proposals broke last Friday. One informant advises that Keneperu Hospital (Porirua) is already charging on a similar basis to the West Coast DHB proposals whereby if the doctor treating the patient believes they should have gone to a G.P. they charge for treatment.

In Hawkes Bay, Napier Health Action Group spokesman Dave Taggart advises that the DHB has contracted A&E out to a medical centre and that “Napier people have little choice but to pay for A&E services”. Mr. Taggart's report on extensive charges for A&E treatment in Napier sounds a clear warning as to the consequences if government allows this creeping cancer of user-pays to infiltrate the public health system, Mr. Tranter said. This highly detailed report reveals systematic charging for treatment which by any reasonable criteria qualifies as normal A&E work but it has been studiously ignored by those who should be acting on it. (The report is available from me on request).

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Such policies also ignore that in many situations people cannot find a G.P. at short notice or cannot afford G.P. charges - or as in the Napier situation, they may not be able to pay the medical centre costs.

The blasé comment of West Coast DHB ceo Kevin Hague that “charging may help ease some of those pressures” (on A&E services) highlights the complacency of high-income bureaucrats who seem unable – or unwilling – to recognise the harsh realities of economic life for many people. If Mr. Hague and his corporate planners employed more A&E staff instead of appointing - as they did recently - more “human resource” managers to handle “issues”, there would be no need for penny-pinching in A&E.

A&E services must not be compromised and must be freely available whenever people feel they have an emergency on their hands. Instead of pleading ignorance Damien O’Connor should be launching an immediate enquiry into the A&E charging poliicies of every DHB in the country, Mr. Tranter said. However, given his complacency the Democrats for Social Credit have taken this matter up with the new health minister Pete Hodgson and have also sent OIA requests to all DHBs asking for their policy on charging for A&E treatment.


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