Andrew Little suggests cuts to health services

Health Minister Andrew Little needs to rule out cutting health services to pay for his radical restructuring plans for the health sector, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

National has a letter from Andrew Little to Finance Minister Grant Robertson, setting out his priorities for Budget 2021.

“The letter states that Minister Little’s priority for the next three years is implementing his radical health restructuring plans, which is worrying enough given we are in the middle of a global pandemic and a Covid-19 vaccine roll-out that has fallen far behind the rest of the world.

“Even more concerning though is that the letter also spells out which health services the Minister believes can be cut to save money.”

Some of the most worrying ‘savings’ he proposes include:

  • Cutting specialist services and reducing the scope and function of rural hospitals

  • Cutting subsidies to health providers serving high-needs populations (for example Māori, Pacific, high-deprivation areas)

  • Reducing access to residential care for older New Zealanders (for example, rest homes, dementia care, or continuing care at hospitals)

  • Restricting eligibility for New Zealanders looking to access disability services

  • Changing the GP funding formula to reduce funding to GPs

“The fact Labour is willing to cut frontline health services like these shows exactly where its priorities for health really lie,” Dr Reti says.

“It’s radical plans have nothing to do with improving the health of New Zealanders, and everything to do with centralising decision making and adding more layers of Wellington bureaucracy.

“Our rural communities are already facing losing their local voice and decision making further with the health restructure, to have the care available in their rural hospitals reduced will be another blow.

“Our disabled and older people are also going to miss out, with the Government looking to reduce who will be eligible for funding.

“Labour is also looking to reduce funding to GPs at a time when they are already at breaking point.

“Minister Little needs to come clean with what the true cost of his radical health restructure will be to the health of New Zealanders.

“The Budget should be putting more funding into improving the health of New Zealanders, not taking it away to pay for more bureaucracy.

“National is interested in health outcomes not layers of bureaucracy and is calling on Mr Little to rule out these cuts to health care services immediately.”

You can read an excerpt of the draft letter from Minister Little to Minister Robertson here.