Health workers, patients protest chronic health 'underfunding'

Each of the 200 figures installed outside Princess Margaret Hospital represented 100 workers the health care system has ...
STACY SQUIRES/FAIRFAX NZ

Each of the 200 figures installed outside Princess Margaret Hospital represented 100 workers the health care system has lost over the past eight years.

More than 500 Canterbury patients and health workers have shared their experiences of New Zealand's health system to show it has been chronically underfunded for years, a new national campaign says.

A coalition of health unions, Action Station and the People's Mental Health Review are collecting stories, running a petition and carrying out a roadshow to help make health funding a hot election topic. 

The group, YesWeCare, set up an installation featuring 200 life-size cut outs of health workers outside Christchurch's Princess Margaret Hospital to make their point on Tuesday.

A coalition of health unions and community groups, YesWeCare.nz, have staged a national roadshow to protest underfunding ...
STACY SQUIRES/FAIRFAX NZ

A coalition of health unions and community groups, YesWeCare.nz, have staged a national roadshow to protest underfunding of health care.

Each figures represented 100 workers the health care system lost over the past eight years, Public Services Association campaign organiser Simon Oosterman said. 

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The number was based on the group's claim that an estimated $1.85 billion had been cut from the country's health budget as annual increases failed to keep with up New Zealand's aging and growing population.

Most of the Canterbury stories shared for the campaign highlighted concerns about mental health funding and the negative impact of stretched resources, Oosterman said. 

A paramedic attending the event, who did not want to be named, said delays in waiting times for ambulances had increased as a result of funding restrictions. 

As a single crew service, he had to wait up to 30 minutes for extra support to treat and transport a patient having a cardiac arrest.

The delay meant there was increased potential for poor patient outcomes, including death, and staff being targeted by angry family members, the man said. 

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Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman said Cantabrians were getting more of the health services they needed under the National Government.

He pointed to figures showing a 37 per cent increase in the number of first specialist assessments from 2008 to 2016, and a 44 per cent increase in elective surgeries for the same period.

He said the results were "supported by the $331 million funding increase Canterbury District Health Board has received over the last eight years". 

Canterbury Charity Hospital founder Dr Phil Bagshaw said the number of people receiving first specialist assessments would probably need to be doubled to keep up with the aging, increasing population and the extent of unmet need. 

"This is just the same old smoke and mirrors the Minister has been turning out since he got the job."​

 - Stuff

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