By: Emma Russell

Excessive wait times and extreme pressures on emergency services will continue as the Government’s budget for District Health Boards falls short by $300 million.

That was the response from Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) director of policy and research Lyndon Keene.

He said while it was good to see more money being channelled into community services it should not be at the expense of DHB services.

“I expect DHBs will carry enormous deficits as they are being so tightly funded.

“Across the board operational services will suffer. As a lot of hospital pressures are driven by acute admissions, elective services get put on the back burner and there’s also less money for community services funded by the DHB,” Keene said.

His comments come as the Government today announced $13.98m to be allocated to the 20 DHBs for operational services to meet the needs of the districts’ populations. Only slightly more than the $13.24m given last year.

This part of the Budget included money for services funded by DHBs such as aged care, mental health, combined pharmaceuticals and primary care. It doesn’t include money for any new or expanded services.

National’s health spokesman Michael Woodhouse said DHBs had not been given enough to keep up with demand.

He said “the sea of red ink” of DHBs deficits wouldn’t be fixed, and funding was “hardly enough to keep the lights on.”

The Wellbeing Budget also included a $1.7 billion investment in hospitals and facilities over the next two years – $850 million each year.

The Dunedin Hospital will be fully funded, but the cost for that is unclear.

Keene said repairing the country’s hospital buildings would not happen with one Budget and would be an ongoing project.

He said there was still a lot of uncertainty around money allocated for pay increases for doctors and nurses.

“We estimated DHBs would have to cough up $500m for pay increases and it looks like that is only being partly funded. I’m unsure if we will be seeing additional funding for this.”

KEY POINTS:

  • $1.7 billion investment in hospitals and facilities over the next two years – $850 million each year.
  • Overall $2.9 billion over the next five years for DHBs. $40 million for Pharmac.
  • The National Bowel Screening Programme is being extended to four more DHBs with a $36 million investment.
  • $464 million is being allocated to Disability Support Services over four years.

The Cancer Society of New Zealand says it welcomes the Wellbeing Budget but was disappointed to see cancer not being made a priority.

“For a long time now we have been advocating for a cancer agency but we have seen no commitment from the Government for this,” Cancer Society’s advocacy and wellbeing manager Shayne Nahu said.

Next month, Health Minister David Clark is expected to announce the Ministry of Health’s cancer control plan.

However, Nahu said it was difficult to see how a plan could be put in place without any new money being allocated for cancer.

“This plan will need considerable investment and we expect it will be a priority in future year’s Budgets.”

Nahu also said it was disappointing to see a very small increase in the funding of Pharmac with no attention to the consideration of an early access scheme.

Lung Foundation New Zealand’s chief executive Philip Hope echoed this response, saying the $10m over four years was a step backwards.

He said when you consider inflation and population growth this amount didn’t even scratch the surface.

“Budget 2019, is not a Wellbeing Budget, but rather an instrument of more suffering, financial crisis and premature death for cancer patients most in need of care and support.

“What we are witnessing is managed decline of access to treatments for our most vulnerable.

“Sadly, New Zealand continues to go backwards, when it is already miles behind the rest of the developed world,” Hope said.

Source: NZ Herald

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