OPINION: Underfunding of health now critical

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The Government’s underfunding of health has dominated local headlines in the past week or two.

Our hospital desperately requires a rebuild, but continued delays have been the response from the Government.

I became concerned about delays in 2014.

Then health minister Tony Ryall promised me a business case would be before cabinet towards the end of 2014.

Now we are told we’ll get a final business case mid-way through 2018, although cynics I’ve spoken to are expecting glossy pictures and big promises of positive progress shortly before this year’s election.

Everyone across the political spectrum has been in agreement since 2014 that it is Dunedin’s turn for a hospital rebuild.

After all, every major city in New Zealand has already had theirs.

But the Government has failed to act.

It has failed to commit to a start date for the physical rebuild to start, and it has failed to commit capital.

Over the past week, we absorbed more bad news on the health front.

I’ve noted before, anyone who uses New Zealand’s health system will know that staff do an amazing job in difficult circumstances.

But budgets have been cut to the core.

that the Government had further short-funded current services in the DHB sector by $200 million.

Now we have learnt it’s even worse: that the Government is going to claw back $5.7 million of the limited funding that was announced for the Southern DHB.

This will mean more cuts.

The funding situation in primary health care is even worse than it is for the hospitals.

According to the Government’s own figures, last year over half a million Kiwis could not afford to go to the GP when they needed to.

This is a shocking state of affairs, and it is set to get worse.

Independent research group Infometrics recently updated its analysis of Government health budgets since 2009 using Treasury data.

Infometrics found that health has been short-funded by $2.3 billion.

That amount is the additional amount that would have been required to maintain existing services.

If existing services are not funded, they will be cut.

In my view, we need a fresh approach.

We need to move away from accepting managed decline in our health sector.

It is time for reform and a government that is willing to invest in healthcare of all New Zealanders, not just those with deep pockets.

 

By Dunedin North MP David Clark