New Zealanders are right to wonder when this Government’s stream of cuts by stealth in the health sector will come to a halt.
There have been cuts for the young and old, for people with rare diseases and suffering mental health issues and cuts for New Zealanders needing cochlear implants, in spite of the Government borrowing more ($17 billion more than National), taxing and spending more.
They have the money, they are just prioritising billions in bad spending on diplomats, free tertiary education and keeping New Zealand First happy.
And you have to ask how many more of these health cuts will there be?
Just recently we heard that a universally-supported pilot to improve the response of 111 mental health calls has been scrapped for the sake of just $8 million.
Before the election, Labour campaigned heavily on mental health, but now it has put the mental health needs of New Zealanders on the backburner while they hold an inquiry.
They have axed the previous National-led Government’s $100 million mental health package which had 17 initiatives developed alongside mental health experts which would have delivered more mental health support to New Zealanders in need now.
This again shows just how vague the coalition Government’s plan is around the health sector and how quick they have been to backtrack on election promises.
In spite of claiming there was a health crisis while in Opposition, Labour spent less on health in this year’s Budget than National spent in last year’s. They pledged $774 million after our National-led Government added $888 million in new funding in 2017, and the $10 cheaper GP fees visits for all New Zealanders was missing.
They have also dropped the National Health Targets meaning the public will not be able to track how their DHBs are performing.
Hundreds of lives were saved by having these targets in place.
Nurses strike impacts
The recent nurses’ strike– the first in thirty years – also had significant implications for patients of our national health system.
Elective surgeries were cancelled including cardiac surgery, surgeries for cancer and joint replacements. Now there is concern that further disruptive strikes are looming.
This Government raised expectations among nurses and it’s failed to meet them and it has lost control of the situation.
Then the Health Minister went on holiday!
The Government has also broken its election promise to establish a fund to pay for drugs for treatments for people with rare diseases.
But for a Government that claims to care, the decision to cut extra funding for cochlear implants is one of the cruellest after National last year boosted the number of funded cochlear implants for adults, having previously sped up access to implants for children.
It is clear that the Government is making a mess in health and New Zealanders are paying the price. In Government, National spent more every year in health, in spite of dealing with the GFC and Christchurch earthquakes.
It will remain a priority under my leadership and we will have new plans and policies ready for the 2020 election to show New Zealanders we will continue to put their needs first.
Simon Bridges is Leader of the National Party and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.