By Ann Cloet and Anna Scorey.
In the last few months we have seen a lot of coverage on the underfunding of our healthcare system. At the same time, the Government insists that 2016 has been a record year in health spending with $550 million per year committed for the next 4 years to relieve demand pressures.
The graph below (based on data provided by Treasury and Labour projections made following the Treasury model) shows that since 2010 spending has never matched the amount of funding actually required. Shortfalls each year have been building up, now amounting to $1.85 billion.
Figure 1: Comparison between actual and ‘required’ yearly New Zealand health expenditure to remain equivalent with 2009/2010 health expenditure levels after taking account of inflation and health demographics.
Aside from the underfunding issue, we also hear about the public healthcare system needing to be more efficient. The Capital and Coast District Health Board was rated one of the most efficient DHBs in 2015, but it still produced a budget deficit of $12 million dollars. To achieve these efficiencies it reduced and closed services, the effects of which are now being felt throughout the public healthcare system.
Effects of ‘efficiencies’
Not filling vacancies
"This is a short-term solution if it's a solution at all. If you don't fill positions that need to be filled you're deferring the problem and increasing the workload on those who need to provide cover”
Association of Salaried Medical Specialists director Ian Powell
St. John Ambulances to strike
“We are not directing our action at patients; we’re doing this for their safety. Paramedics will continue to serve their communities and patients, but they’ll be doing it while underfunded and exhausted” Ambulance Professionals First co-ordinator Lynette Blacklaw.
Junior Doctors to strike
Junior doctors say they have to work 12 consecutive days, with some shifts 16 hours long, which leaves them overtired and is unsafe for patients.
Kenepuru Hospital After Hours to close:
The closure of the centre would mean residents from the Kapiti Coast southwards would have to travel into Wellington for treatment between 11pm and 7am.
Mental Health Services in Crisis:
“We are now no longer talking about a system that is under pressure, but a service that is broken” Kyle MacDonald, psychotherapist and People’s Review spokesperson.
It is important to point out also that our current leaders have the capacity to significantly increase health spending but seem unwilling to do so.
With next year’s elections coming up, we, the people of New Zealand, have the opportunity to make healthcare a vote changing issue. We need to show our politicians that we want an effective government that delivers good quality public services, healthcare being among them.
Click here to join our grassroots movement in support of a fully funded public healthcare system.