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As National and Labour play the blame game over the state of the public health system, the Finance Minister says Vote Health will be a ‘major focus’ area in May’s Budget

As National and Labour play the blame game over the state of the public health system, the Finance Minister says Vote Health will be a ‘major focus’ area in May’s Budget

The state of New Zealand’s health system has been thrust into the limelight and is likely to take centre stage at next month’s budget.

Concerns sparked by RNZ reports on problems at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital including buildings full of rot and potentially dangerous mould, asbestos and raw sewage leaking into the walls, have evolved into a wider debate over the funding of the health sector.

“New Zealand’s health system has been so badly neglected by the previous government it needs about $14 billion invested in infrastructure in the next 10 years,” Minister of Health David Clark told RNZ last week.

He says the $8 billion Labour pledged in the election campaign for extra health funding over the next four years won’t be enough.

Clark says, although the numbers are “a bit ropey,” it’s likely extra spending will be needed to repair the “nearly decade of neglect.”

District Health Boards (DHB) across the country have been complaining about issues with their buildings, such as mould and rot.

Clark says as there is no national asset management plan for DHBs, it’s hard to gauge the full extent of the issue.

But he says the Government is in the process of putting one together.

Clark, who has been in the job for less than six months, put the blame of the health system’s shortfalls squarely in the lap of the previous National-led Government.

“The previous Government seemed to believe that by squeezing the health sector, you promote a private health industry,” he told RNZ.

“They were concerned about private profit for that industry, so it could grow.”

But new National Party leader Simon Bridges told media on Tuesday when National was in Government, it did invest in health.

“This is a situation where National, through tough times like the global financial crisis and the Christchurch Earthquakes, continued to put more investment into health.”

Now is the time, he says, for the Government to take action – it’s “show me the money time,” he says, channelling his inner Jerry Maguire.

“What they have got,” he says, in reference to New Zealand’s strong economy, “they have inherited from us, so they can get about doing some of the things that their rhetoric suggests.”

‘Vote Health will be a major focus area’ in the budget

So, what does the Government plan on doing?

“I cannot go into details until 17 May (Budget day) but it will come as no surprise that Vote Health will be a major focus area,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said in Parliament on Tuesday.

He says the operating and capital allowances outlined in the Budget Policy Statement are both significantly higher than the previous Government had budgeted for.

“A significant amount of this will go towards Vote Health to help bring services back up to a standard that New Zealanders expect and deserve in the context of what has independently been said to be a $2.4 billion underfunding of health in the last nine years.”

He says the Government has been advised of “significant capital spending pressures” among DHBs, which have signalled a required capital spend of $14 billion over the next 10 years.

This will require about $10 billion of additional Crown/taxpayer funding, he says.

 “We're going to make sure that New Zealanders and the health professionals who work in the health system know that it will be the best it can be: safe, affordable, and secure.”

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If the National Party wants to force NZers into seeking private health and hospital care out of necessity as a result of looking to be adequately provided for, that's one thing.

But at least they could be honest and up front about it - that running down the Public health assets as a spur to grow the private providers profitably is their preferred option. Ideology is ok, but spit out the actual details, so the electorate can make an informed choice on it.

Taxpayers are currently picking up the can for a previous policy of negligence and underfunding. Absolute national party cowboys.

It has been suggested from time to time that a tax rebate could be given for taking out private health insurance, to encourage more to do so. But whether or not there is any merit in that, it will never happen with a Labour government. As Dr Cullen said at the time, at his cynical best, “if you can afford health insurance, you don’t need a tax cut” or words to that effect.

But...then it wouldn't be as acceptable for Jonathan Coleman to go straight from government into a CEO role in a private healthcare organisation.

Not exactly sure of what sort of comparison that is but personally I would not accept it and I would be out of that particular scheme as fast as my old legs could carry me.

ps : National too are devoid of any initiative in this regard. Seems it is not worthy of comment.

Hindsight is somewhat damming in Dr Coleman's case. Rather looks like a conflict of interest. Silence and refuses to do interview on DHBs.

Brownlee on EQC blow out cost "scandal" no more willing to defend his Ministerial tenure - thank god for sunlight. I suspect he'll retire soon.

Cliche but true. You cannot defend the indefensible! But don’t believe for one moment that he would be surprised by what is now bubbling to the surface, and we are not talking about, liquefaction. This Labour government must form a Royal Commission. Everybody in NZ is entitled to the full set of circumstances, if only as protection in case of future events

Yes, what has happened in the healthcare sector is scandalous - people in fear of speaking out, as was evidenced in this article;

A Royal Commission would be an excellent idea - no better way to inform the public of how really bad it got and how important it is that we put it right for not only patients but those working in this sector as well.

Actually Kate was targeting EQC etc, but when you take on board what has happened for example at Middlemore and the scandals at Waikato, a Royal Commission on Health would be entirely appropriate too, essential in fact.

I find it staggering that there wasn't/isn't more hullabaloo about this, it's a complete betrayal of public/private interest. An utter disgrace, running down health services and then sashaying off to a private healthcare provide after being the minister for health with overall responsibility for budgets, absolutely disgusting.

The government (people of NZ) don't need to own hospitals or have health boards. What we should be purchasing is health services.
Health service provision should be totally private and the should be forced to bid for each patient needing treatment.
This would allow the government to send patients overseas if it was cheaper.
If a patient wanted a particular doctor then the patient would pay any premium that doctors rate had over the lowest bid.
There would have to be very strict duty of care mechanisms to ensure proper treatment. Private providers would have to be liable for downstream patient costs in some cases & the private providers themselves would have to have some form of reinsurance to cover such issues.

That's the US Medicaid/Medicare model - a total rip off/disaster for the taxpayers who fund it. As Trump pointed out early on in his term - he, as a private citizen, pays less for aspirin over the counter at Walgreens than the Government does via the private healthcare system. Crazy, nuts - but true.

No, the American system is quite different

as someone that was in and out of middlemore last year with a very serious family member i have seen first hand the pressure and how the health service was being run down.
it is not fun sitting in emergency for twelve hours waiting for a bed with a wound that got infected as the said family member was sent home straight after MAJOR surgery ( ten hours) with three pumps.
the district nurses that came daily were horrified and told us to go back and demand a bed,
in the end our local doctor got on the phone and gave the department a yelling at after it got infected
it took after another ten days of fighting the infection in hospital then they had to perform another surgery 1/2 day to fix it up.

all extra time and cost caused by sending him home to early due to the pressure on the system
i dont blame the surgeons or doctors or nurses they went above and beyond BUT the system is way overloaded for the population growth and the numbers are way more than can be coped with.

when you saw the sign in ED saying the hospital is full
and talking to the ED doctors and nurses as they rang ward after ward to find somewhere to place,
at the time the hospital was 110% (nurse told me)
and the frustration they had then you know something was very very wrong
so when i saw the ex minister deny the situation i was furious
and that shaped my vote in the last election

It makes me sick just thinking about the number of times in Parliament that Coleman answered questions by criticising the Board and management of the various DHBs in trouble - saying they had had budget increases, the funding was adequate - all that was needed was better management of their budgets/resources.

And Coleman was correct

Having a budget increase in itself means nothing if the increase doesn't match inflation + increase in the population you are serving. DHBs are being asked to do more and more with less and less all while improving outcomes.

Think I'll trust RNZ reports on that one, thanks boatie.

Yes he was correct in the sense that is illustrated for instance, by the deplorable CEO at Waikato being unchecked and allowed to rip off the system. But the government of the day appoints the Chair and some other members of each and every DHB, partly one would think as watch dogs. If the caliber and effectiveness of those appointees is found wanting, then that government is then ultimately accountable for any extravagances in my book.

Funny how various issues are cropping up in various sectors of the economy, one by one now, after National was denied another term. Shows to what extent things were being hidden from the public during the last few years.

Also how the MSM never bothered to do any real investigative journalism to expose the shortcomings, instead played pally with the powers that were, to promote the image of a rock star economy.

May be Key did know how things would unravel soon and that is why he jumped ship and secured his future in the Private Sector, as other ex-Ministers also seem to be doing now. A true American style revolving door lobby system was in operation in NZ it seems. We have been conned massively, folks.

Poor Labour (pun intended) left holding the can and having to deal with the mess, with limited governing ability, after 9 years in the wilderness, that too in a coalition government. May be it is a Phyrric victory for Labour, in a real sense ? Troublesome 3 years ahead, aye.

All the various issues you refer to Smokey can be traced back to the same cause.
Population Growth.
Labour started this ball rolling selling off our last and most valuable asset, our low population statistic.
National carried it on for 9 yrs and now we have Labour again and we still have our immigration door wide open.
Wake up NZ and shut the door.

And Key's only regret is not changing the flag

If the problems commenced under the previous Labour govt. (highly probable, and the previous National and Labour govts) then why does he not regret solving those problems?

Why again did he receive a knighthood?

The flag was an ill considered and flawed process, a wanton waste of money. But Key rues that and lauds the handling of the Canterbury EQ’s even in the face of what maltreatment of claimants is emerging now! That has to be a joke, and a sick one at that.

What about the Pike River Mine disaster and how the government promises were broken brazenly and how the company got away with it ? Doesn't he regret that ?

That massive NZ $11,000,000,000 HOLE that Steven Joyce warned of looks like something this COL fallen into and is now continuing to dig furiously in the futile belief that digging deeper will get them out

EXACTLY ... digging deeper will make them sink further, better shut it and do some work!

And I would add that the rot in middlemore hosp happened under the watch of bloody health professionals unlike some careless Dunedin students in a flat. So this is not really a good look - I cannot believe that no one has ever reported this to the opposition in the last 9 years ...unless they were really snoring on the benches. Labour is behaving like the caveman who was left asleep for a decade !!

If there were no plans or bodies looking after the DHB assets in the last nine years then I doubt that there have ever been serious processes to look after the Landlord's Buildings. DHB management cannot be let off that easily surely.

Who do you think was more likely to be told of issues, and more responsible to act on them - the Government at the time or the Opposition? You managed the write all of that without blaming the obvious culprits.

You can lead an ideologue to facts but...

Crazy indeed that after nine years in power National's dedicated fans are trying to blame mismanagement during that period on Labour. Perhaps if the omelette constantly salivated for is always tax cuts, you've got to break a few eggs - even if those include the standard of healthcare provided to folk less fortunate than yourself.

Now we appear to be facing a structural deficit - not only in the physical structures in our healthcare system, but in the core services too.

You both miss the point and the ones who are playing the blame game in support of a weak and toothless CoL .... and by that you miss any discussion points by being completely biased.

Of course The MoH is to be blamed for mismanagement including the untouchable DHBs for whatever has happened ...however, Labour is just making this another funeral to cry and moan about a political opponent for a failure that could have existed under their watch too. In my opinion this technique is used to cover up of their failure as a useful opposition in the last 9 years.

I made the point that while the "culprits " were in power in the last 9 years, the opposition too had the duty to keep an ear to the ground and the power to keep them honest ... and that didn't happen - everything this CoL wants us to believe is that they are the saviour angels of the universe who descended upon us after long to discover and disclose what the bad Nats have done in the last 9 years ( albeit very selectively) .... and that itself is crap and BS and is done in dirty electionaring techniques.

Notice when the PM and any Labour minister talks about any subject, he/she blames Nat in every second sentence ... and this along with the body language is becoming nauseous. they are digging a bigger hole for themselves if they fail to deliver on these big mouth blames and statements and don't come up with plausible solutions .

The next boot will kick them out to the opposition benches for more than 9 years next time.

Good lord. So a summary of COW talking points:

1. MOH is to be blamed for mismanagement of healthcare under National (definitely not National).

2. It's not National's fault, it's Labour's because Labour didn't stop National from failing.

3. Blaming National for their actions while they were in power is just not nice.

So basically everything bad that has happened under a National government is the fault of anyone else but that government. The buck stops elsewhere.

And yet it's those who refuse to roll with the above who are completely biased. *facepalm*

Come on, mate. You need to do better than that.

Yes that's what it is, "it's all fake news, all Fake News.... Crooked media..
.. National were great.....It's Fake News..... ."

So, wait, wait, wait, wait...You're arguing that the $11 Billion Hole does exist after all because there's a bunch of underinvestment and underfunding that had been hidden prior to the election? So Stephen Joyce's hole was a bunch of stuff they knew would need funding but wanted to keep hidden at the time?

Exactly. The proverbial dead bodies....

Reduce the population by 1/2 a million people and a miracle will happen:
#our infrastructure will cope again.
#our health system will cope again.
#our crime rate will drop again.
#our schools will have acceptable student numbers again.
#our housing will be affordable for working class NZers again.
And our export earnings will go further amoungst less people.
Wake up NZ and shut the door.

Maybe, maybe not ...time will tell ...

National cannot be completely innocent and the buck surely stops with them as being the managers at the time - however, Labour is obviously playing the blame game to cover up their part in the political balance in our democracy - that is what oppositions are for ...

I would like to see the DHB managers be punished for these shortfalls, hiding behind their thumbs was not in the public interest and they should have known better.

Responsible managers have many avenues to pressure a minister or a Gov neglecting its duties , the opposition and media are only few.

Yes Smokey. I see very much the same issues.

What a load of tawddle. This’s not a surprise, it was KNOWN pre election

Instead of the COL sitting like a child in the back seat of a car blaming the sibling for some transgression how about getting in the driver seat, take us to their destination and be judged at the next election? That’s leadership. Any Muppet can point out faults. The COL have the power, use it and be judged.

This is covered in the article.

"“I cannot go into details until 17 May (Budget day) but it will come as no surprise that Vote Health will be a major focus area,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said in Parliament on Tuesday.

He says the operating and capital allowances outlined in the Budget Policy Statement are both significantly higher than the previous Government had budgeted for.

“A significant amount of this will go towards Vote Health to help bring services back up to a standard that New Zealanders expect and deserve in the context of what has independently been said to be a $2.4 billion underfunding of health in the last nine years.”"

The more I see of Bridges,the less I like/trust him. This lot will no doubt make its fair share of mistakes-Shane Jones being one of them,but I want to give them a chance to start moving the country in a different direction. We need better-much better-infrastructure,better healthcare,education and major changes to our justice system. We simply can't go on locking more people up. it clearly doesn't work and is incredibly expensive.
All these issues Cost Money and the government needs to bite the bullet on the debt/GDP straitjacket it has adopted and borrow more for these essential needs.If say,the ration went to 30%,we would still have one of the lowest debt/GDP ratios in the world.

The more I see of Bridges,the less I like/trust him.

Having had dealings with him over the years, it sounds to me like you're going through the normal process of getting to know him.

Rick, a quote from the cynics society is perhaps pertinent. A lawyer is a professional advocate hired to bend the law on behalf of a paying client and for this reason considered the most suitable background for entry into politics.

Still we have seen a few good ones. Martyn Finlay, Jim McLay.

His transparency is in some question over Airbag recall scale of problems and inactivity by him as previous Minister of Transport. New Minister contradicts Bridges claim to have received "advice" playing down the issue. Yeah right.