Patients, workers meet to make health a key election issue
Issues of substandard care and a $215 million gap in what is needed to fund the country's health services will make health a key election topic, a forum has heard.
Personal stories of inadequate care dominated the Public Service Association's YesWeCare campaign event at the Woolston Club in Christchurch on Saturday, attended by more than 100 patients, former patients and health workers
Organiser Marney Ainsworth said the forum would help build a coalition to gain improved health services and resourcing, but people needed to work together.
"Nothing is going to be handed to us on a plate. We're going to have to campaign for it."
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Underfunding of health was taken as a given, but Council of Trade Unions (CTU) economist Bill Rosenberg presented his analysis of Budget 2017 to underline the scale of the problem.
Health was given $215 million less than what was needed for new services, the pay equity settlement for care workers, increasing costs, population growth and the effects of an ageing population, compared to Budget 2016, he said.
Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman dismissed the analysis, saying the CTU was a critic of the Government and "it's an election year".
"Claims by Government critics that health funding has been cut are incorrect. Under this Government, health expenditure share of GDP has averaged 6.5 per cent – that's up from the previous Government's level of under 6 per cent."
Many of those at Saturday's forum were people who had received substandard care during their time in need, and were now trying to help others in similar situations.
Robert Read, who talked about his experience accessing mental health services, asked for a minute's silence for people lost to suicide, including a friend who had died a month earlier.
He and Rochelle Carey shared their stories of being turned away by emergency department (ED) staff after presenting with suicidal thoughts.
Since getting some help with his own depression, Read set up Facebook page Suicide Awareness / Prevention to support others in the same situation, but he hoped the page would eventually be managed by professionals.
"I realised there was this hole when people were reaching out for help they were not getting it."
Danyon Fairbrother, 23, spoke about how he was sent home from ED after trying to take his own life when he was 16. But more recently, a rehabilitation programme in Blenheim has helped him address past demons.
Fairbrother's Facebook group Unity Within The Community is his effort to help raise awareness about mental health and end stigma.
He came to the forum to hear from others who wanted change.
"It was really inspiring to hear there all these other organisations that are trying to improve things."
Canterbury Charity Hospital founder Phil Bagshaw said since opening 10 years ago, the charity had treated 13,000 patients who had been refused treatment by the Canterbury District Health Board.
Instead of funding health appropriately, the Government had created systems to "manage the trajectory of demand" while not adequately recording those who were denied treatment, he said.
A study he led on unmet health need found 9.3 per cent of those surveyed were not getting the hospital level services they needed.
"That would represent approximately 300,000 people currently sitting out there who have been told they need some sort of secondary care and they can't get it."
WHERE TO GET HELP
Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757
Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116
Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - 0800 9428 787, Open between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy, who are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.
For more information, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service on 09 623 4812.