National promises to “cure the ailing health sector”

National promises to “cure the ailing health sector”
Michael Woodhouse

Wellington, December 21, 2019

The National Party believes that good physical and mental health is vital to your wellbeing. 

We want the public health service to be responsive to that need regardless of your age, background or where we live.

Broken promises

The Labour-led Government has failed to deliver improvements to our public health system; indeed it has got worse on their watch both clinically and financially.

The list of broken promises is a long one.

Some of the broken promises are cheaper GP fees for all New Zealanders, increasing GP training places, free mental health care in the community, ensuring world class cancer care, free health checks for seniors and increasing the age of breast screening to 74.

The financial health of DHBs has dramatically deteriorated on this Government’s watch, with combined deficits exceeding $1 billion. Hardly surprising, given that, for all the talk of National’s underfunding, the Labour-led Government has invested less into health than a re-elected National government would have.

Health Discussion Document

You deserve better. This week, the National Party released its Health Discussion Document, the eighth discussion document this year.  It sets out the areas of health that we believe are important to you and that can and should be improved.

We believe targets are important. We will restore and refresh the national health targets and report to you regularly on how your DHB is performing against those targets.

You know that access to surgery is important but has gone done under Labour.

You know that high immunisation rates prevent epidemics.

They have gone down under Labour.

You know that faster cancer treatment improves survival rates.

Again, poorer under Labour.

You may not have known that research into the impact of shorter stays in emergency departments showed 700 lives a year were being saved. 

That is thousands of lives saved with the previous Government’s targets. It’s got worse under Labour. Targets matter.

National’s pledge

Drug funding increases have been lower under this Government. We’ll restore funding and maintain it. We will establish a $50 million p.a. cancer drugs fund and we will ring-fence funding for medicines for rare disorders.

Our workforce are the heroes of our health sector but there are challenges with ageing and questions over whether we are training enough health professionals to meet future demand. Even now there are shortages, with the aged residential care sector estimating they are 600 registered nurses short.

That will grow to 1710 FTE registered nurses and 6760 FTE caregivers and enrolled nurses by 2036. We need an urgent stocktake of the workforce and a plan to meet demand. Meantime we will ensure our immigration settings enable shortages that cannot be addressed domestically can be met with overseas professionals, something else that has become harder under this Government.

Significant shortfalls

Our maternity services are under increasing pressure and part of the reason is this Government’s failure to remedy significant shortfalls in the income of community midwives.

We are proposing to address income equity claims by independent midwives in line with the recommendations of the Co-Design Report commissioned by the previous National Government, which this Government has so far failed to take up.

Other improvements in women’s health will include better information on gynaecological cancer detection and the establishment of a surgical mesh register.

New Strategies

Other initiatives include refreshing the disability strategy and restoring the increases in adult cochlear implant surgery that were cruelly removed by this Government.

We will increase support for the school dental service that presently has 120,000 behind in their regular check-ups and propose implementing a programme designed to improve children’s dental habits.

And we will make sure that the system is designed in a way that both ensures care is provided as close to your home as possible while ensuring our investment in the public health system improves the health of all Kiwis.

These are just some of the many issues addressed in the health discussion document. You can provide feedback on the health and other discussion documents by going to our website at https://www.national.org.nz/discussion_documents.

You can be confident of our relentless focus on improving New Zealander’s health and that we will be ready to improve the health sector when given that privilege.

In 2020, New Zealanders will have a choice, one that we believe will be clear as to who is best placed to oversee improvements in our health system.

In the meantime I trust you enjoy a peaceful and relaxing festive season.

Michael Woodhouse is Member of Parliament on National List and the Party’s Spokesperson for Health.

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