21 March 2018
Senior doctors welcome Government policy decisions on public assets; thwarts attempt by Taranaki health bosses to
privatise hospital laboratory
“Senior doctors are welcoming reports that the Government won’t be selling off public assets and, by extension, be
handing over control of public assets to private interests,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of
Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).
He was commenting on the release of the Government’s Investment Statement yesterday, which includes a number of
hard-hitting comments about the rundown state of the country’s public hospitals and the ability or otherwise to do the
maintenance and replacement work required.
“It is pleasing that the new Finance Minister is not looking at public assets through a narrow financial lens but
instead is placing emphasis on their role in advancing well-being. This is directly relevant for our public health
system for which district health boards have a critical responsibility.”
Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s media release is available online at https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/wellbeing-approach-assessing-government%E2%80%99s-balance-sheet
and includes a link to the full Investment Statement.
Ian Powell also welcomed Mr Robertson’s subsequent public statement that he has ruled out selling assets and instead
wants to focus on improving the performance of the assets the Government own (eg, http://politik.co.nz/en/content/economy/1301
– subscription service).
“That’s a very welcome message for senior doctors and, I’m sure, other clinical front-line staff and public hospital
managers, who have been working in an environment of uncertainty for a number of years,” he says.
“There’s more than one way of privatising assets, however, so it’s important that it doesn’t happen by other means – for
example, by contracting out services that should be provided by the public sector.
“These two positive statements follow the Government’s responsible decision to halt the move to privatise public
hospitals through the development of Public Private Partnerships for redevelopment projects in Dunedin, Christchurch and
“These decisions meant that it would be impossible for the dubious and foolish attempt of Taranaki DHB bosses to fully
privatise the public hospital laboratory to proceed. The work done by hospital laboratories affects around 70% of
clinical decision-making. Minister of Health David Clark’s express approval is required for that to go ahead. It is
noteworthy that Dr Clark is also Mr Robertson’s associate finance minister.
“Taranaki’s health bosses surely must realise now that this explicit direction of Government policy on public assets and
privatisation means that the Health Minister can’t possibly approve their laboratory privatisation push. We welcome this
thwarting of their short-sighted and high risk ambition.”