Budget a Mixed Bag - NZMA

Published: Thu 20 May 2010 03:44 PM
Budget a Mixed Bag - NZMA
The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) is concerned at the negative effects of reduced health funding, announced in today’s budget, which will lead to some patients missing out on essential health services.
“We are however pleased to see that the funding shortfall is not as dramatic as we’d anticipated,” says NZMA Deputy Chair Dr Paul Ockelford.
The Government has announced $512 million of additional funding for the 2010/11 financial year, although only $420 million of that is new money.
The NZMA says that the Government has exerted pressure on DHBs in recent months to reduce spending but has not provided central guidance on which services are to be reduced.
“We already have huge variability in the quality of health care delivery throughout the country. This postcode health phenomenon will only be exacerbated if the Government does not demonstrate leadership and guide DHBs in their health expenditure.”
Dr Ockelford says the NZMA supports Government aims to improve the integration of health services so that hospitals and the community work closer together to deliver better health care for patients.
“The future delivery of healthcare is increasingly in a non-hospital setting. However, appropriate funding must follow, as well as comprehensive engagement of doctors in both the primary and secondary sectors.”
Dr Ockelford says that for health integration to succeed, engagement with clinicians is essential and to date this has been limited.
“The process has been very rushed. If the Government does not have clinical buy-in, this initiative will not succeed.”
The NZMA is also concerned that resources allocated to health do not always provide best value. “There is still waste in the system, partly due our health structure, which results in duplication across DHBs.”
The NZMA is supportive, however, of funding announcements made in today’s Budget such as an extra $59.5 million for elective surgery over the next four years and an extra $93 million for disability support services over the next four years.
Dr Ockelford says the NZMA welcomes funding for 20 new medical training places for 2010/2011 but would have liked to see this number higher to meet health workforce demands.
“We have got a long way to go before we reach the Government’s stated target of 200 extra training places by 2014.”
“However, health workforce shortages are at crisis levels so any initiatives that can assist in the recruitment and retention of doctors, nurses and other health professionals are to be commended. New Zealand needs to be self-sufficient in its health workforce and this funding goes some way towards achieving this goal.”
Dr Ockelford said that the Government, through measures announced in last year’s budget, such as extra medical training places and the Voluntary Bonding Scheme, is making some progress on this critical issue.
The NZMA supports other health budget announcements released earlier:
• Bowel cancer screening pilot costing $24 million over the next four years
• $40million for mental health over the next four years (although $12m of this will be funded by cutting some existing mental health initiatives).
• 20 new medical training places for 2010/11.
• An extra $40million for medicines.
• $109 million for primary care services, and there has also been some reprioritisation within primary care.
• $1.4 billion of the total $2.1 billion over the next four years will go straight to district health boards, Mr Ryall said.

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