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Hospice Faces Escalating Funding Crisis

Why does the government refuse to adequately fund Hospices? The hospice movement is facing an escalating financial crisis because the government continually refuses to fully fund palliative care.

Palliative care is not seen as an essential or core health service by the government. In contrast doctors killing patients with a lethal injection or assisting their patients in suicide in accordance with the End of Life Choice Act is considered an essential health service with unlimited funding. Right to Life asks the government, why is this?

There are 33 hospices in New Zealand. In the 2021-22 financial year it cost the hospice movement $186 million to provide free hospice care in New Zealand. This was an increase of $11.2 million from 2021.

The government provides through the medium of contracts with individual hospices $92.1 million, which is an increase of just $3 million from 2021. This is actually a reduction in funding from 68.5% to 65.8%.

It is simply scandalous that the hospice movement was required to raise $94 million from raffles, cake stalls, and second-hand retail shops to maintain services.

Government spending has exploded from $76 billion in 2017 to $137 by June next year, this does not include increased funding for hospices.

In the government’s wellbeing budget for 2023, the government has reduced health spending by $1 billion, there is no extra funding for palliative care. The government however was prepared to fund contractors and consultants in excess of $1 billion for 2021/22.

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Right to Life believes that the government wishes to promote assisted suicide and a lethal injection as the preferred option for patients in preference for expensive palliative care that respects the sanctity of life and provides compassionate care. With an increasing elderly population it is cheaper to kill patients than to care for them.

The Ministry of Health has a team of seven people dedicated to promote the killing of patients under the End of Life Choice Act 2019, there are no staff dedicated to promoting palliative care.

The Ministry is aware that 20% of the 214 patients who were given a lethal injection or were assisted in suicide since 7th November 2021 to 30 September 2022 were not receiving palliative care. The Ministry is not aware if this was because palliative care was not available, or because the patient did not request it. The Ministry in response to an Official Information Act request from Right to Life advised that they did not collect that information and that they had no intention of collecting that information in the future.

In 2021, hospices provided care to nearly 20,000 patients and their families. Hospice NZ warns that if the government does not increase funding it will become necessary to reduce the caring services that New Zealanders are entitled to receive at the end of their live

Right to Life applauds the doctors and nurses who provide compassionate palliative care. We will continue to oppose the “assisted dying service” and every move to extend the grounds for killing. We will also continue to seek the government’s acceptance to fully fund the hospice movement in New Zealand.

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