Budget 2016: $700m needed for health to stand still: CTU

Prime Minister John Key, and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, alongside finance minister Bill English, will reveal the ...
Hagen Hopkins

Prime Minister John Key, and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, alongside finance minister Bill English, will reveal the size of the health purse on Thursday.

The health system needs another $700 million pumped into it at the budget, just to tread water with current services, says the Council of Trade Unions.

The Government is set to reveal its budget on Thursday, and the CTU along with the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) have released their annual calculations. 

The health sector receives a lions' share of funding each year, but opposition parties and medical unions say it's not enough. 

In a joint paper, by CTU policy director Bill Rosenberg and ASMS policy direct Lyndon Keene, the pair argue DHBs would need $551m on top of announcements already made, to stand still. 

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While National health services and the Ministry of Health would need $136m and $4m respectively. 

"Population pressures are a major driver of funding need in the coming year.

"The projected increase for the year to June 2017, which takes into account health costs of different age groups, is 2.57 percent, compared to 2.06 percent in the current financial year, and 1.64 percent last year," the working paper says. 

"The Health vote's operational expenses would need to rise by an estimated 4.7 percent, or $691 million, from $14,820 million to $15,511 million, to maintain the current levels of service."

ASMS executive director Ian Powell said anything less would represent a decline in funding in real terms. 

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"We're seeing the effects of that decline in the number of people who are really struggling to be treated for a wide range of conditions. 

"These are ordinary New Zealanders who can't get the surgeries they need to get them back to work or leading active lives," he said. 

"The reality is that New Zealand has longstanding shortages of senior doctors in our public hospitals with the situation getting worse rather than better."

Last week, the Government released the latest update of staffing figures. Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said a "record number" of doctors and nurses were working in DHBs across the country. 

"As of 31 March 2016, there were over 7,880 doctor full-time-equivalents and 22,500 nurse full-time equivalents employed by DHBs – that's almost 2,000 more doctors and nearly 4,200 more nurses compared to 2008.

"In total the number of doctors and nurses working in DHBs across the country has increased by over 6,100 since 2008 - an increase of 25 per cent," he said.

That included a 36 per cent increase to about 1,100 more senior doctors, and the same amount more senior nurses, an increase of 40 per cent.

The Government had boosted health funding by $4 billion since it came into power. 

Powell said the Government was "spinning the numbers". 

Labour's health spokeswoman Annette King has said the Government effectively slashed $1.7b from health funding since it took charge in 2008. 

It had done so by underfunding the sector and failing to keep up with population cost pressures and inflation, she said. 

Coleman has already made a number of pre-budget announcements including $97m to health research, and $50m to Pharmac. 

Finance Minister Bill English will unveil the full extent of health and District Health Board funding in his eighth budget on Thursday. 

 - Stuff

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