Health Minister Annette King says former National Party Health Minister Wyatt Creech is misleading the public once again by claiming that it would be an irony if the Government supported using private health providers to help deal with the waiting list for cardiac surgery at Greenlane Hospital.
"In the 1980s, with Helen Clark as Health Minister, Labour involved the private sector when it had to, and both last year and this year I told the Private Hospitals Association conference exactly what our approach was. Our approach was also made clear in our health policy in October 1999," Mrs King said.
"We believe in a cooperative health sector. Naturally we will use capacity in the public sector first, but if the public sector lacks capacity when it's needed, and the private sector has spare capacity, then it makes sense to use that capacity.
"The previous Government's policy was one of privatisation by stealth. The private sector welcomes our Government's far more open approach."
Mrs King said she had never said it was wrong to do urgently-needed surgery in private hospitals if there was insufficient capacity in public hospitals.
"The important thing, quite obviously, is to look after the health of New Zealanders. The real irony is that Mr Creech's Government ran down capacity in our public hospitals and health workforce so badly by preaching their silly philosophy that the market would look after everything.
"This Government now has to rebuild capacity as well as provide more money for operations. Mr Creech can try to mislead the public as much as he likes, but he cannot mislead the people on Greenlane's waiting list. They understand the reality of his Government's bequest.
"I am reassured by the joint approach being taken by the Health Funding Authority and A+ to address the current problem. This contrasts markedly with the controversy that occurred under Mr Creech when capacity in the public sector simply wasn't utilised."