INDEPENDENT NEWS

Health Minister Deciding Education Policy?

Published: Thu 24 Aug 2000 11:11 AM
The ‘golden handcuffs’ policy that will allow Health Funding Authorities to give junior doctors a lump sum payment at the end of each year worked could prove to be very troublesome , said ACT Tertiary Education spokesman Stephen Franks.
Last week it was revealed that the Government was debating discounting junior doctors student loans. Today’s statement was also aimed at junior doctors who are currently on strike.
“The Government is in talk back politics. The proposed policy may have merit but the means by which we have arrived at it is bizarre.
“Initially I thought Annette King may have been thinking with her mouth open without realising the effects. She could be forgiven for grasping at quick fix solutions for a Health portfolio crisis, but it now seems Cabinet is allowing her to set policy off the cuff.
“The student loan policy does need revisiting. However, the singling out of one small group for special treatment is neither sensible, equitable or fair.
“New Zealanders need immediate reassurance that the repercussions of the currently proposed policy have been thought through?
 Will doctors who are already paying, or have completed paying off loans, be reimbursed?
 How will the Government meet ‘me too’ claims from nurses, science teachers and others with scarce and valuable skills.
 Won’t doctors still take off overseas for higher pay after their loans are wiped?
 Will this new policy create increased demand for student loans, like the Government’s ‘loan for free’ policy that will see loans skyrocket to $6 billion by 2002, nearly twice as quick as forecast before Labour’s policy
 Why will the policy apply only to junior hospital doctors, when young medical graduates who work elsewhere are equally in debt?
 Won’t qualified people set out to postpone repayment until the coalition Government sorts out when its ‘forgiveness policy’ might start
 Has the Minister of Finance calculated the billions knocked off Government assets if student loans become irrecoverable.
“This should not have been discussed until the details were sorted out. While the proposal itself may be a good one, developing policy through ‘talk back’ is not an indication of a stable Government,” said Stephen Franks.
ENDS

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