The Government’s incomplete ‘mini-Budget’ leaves the health system without a sufficient budget for capital expenditure, National Party Health Spokesperson Jonathan Coleman says.
“The Labour Government’s plan in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update shows that only $500 million has been allocated for new hospital buildings and equipment for all twenty DHBs over the next five years.
“The total cost required for the Dunedin Hospital rebuild alone is $1.4 billion and with the Government ruling out public-private-partnerships for hospitals it is unclear where the money is going to come from.
“Labour have promised to start the hospital rebuild before the next election and complete it sooner than the seven-year timeline in the indicative business case. That’s just not going to be possible with only $500 million available across New Zealand.
“This clearly shows that capital projects in our health system are at risk under this Government.
“The New Zealand public were led to believe during the election campaign that Labour had fully covered health expenditure. Now we are seeing that insufficient funding has been set aside and that hospitals will have to compete against all other Government priorities in the future.
“Labour needs to front up on where the capital will come from for the projects they are promising because delivering these promises will have a colossal fiscal impact.”
National Party Health Spokesperson Dr Jonathan Coleman says the new Health Minister is jeopardising the tough timetable he has set himself for the Dunedin Hospital rebuild with the sacking of two members of the Southern Partnership Group.
“Dr Clark has been very critical of the Dunedin Hospital Rebuild and has set himself some tough timelines,” Dr Coleman says.
“The announcement of the ultimate Dunedin Labour Party political insider and former Health Minister Pete Hodgson as chair of the Southern Partnership Group is exactly the wrong move for progressing the rebuild.
“Andrew Blair has done an excellent job as chair of the Southern Partnership Group and Tony Lanigan added professional expertise that has now been thrown out the window with the appointment of Clark’s political mentor and predecessor as MP for Dunedin North as well as another local person to the Southern Partnership Group.
“It now means that the shape of the rebuild will be determined by political interests rather than what is best in the long-term for the people of the Southern region.
“It’s also further evidence that Clark is going to rely on former Labour Health Ministers to tell him what to do.
“This is the start of problems in the delivery of the rebuild and it is not a good move for the people of the Southern region.”
The new Health Minister needs to start walking the talk and explain what the Government’s plans are for health – if there are any, National’s Health Spokesperson Jonathan Coleman says.
“Let’s be fair, he’s only been in the job five weeks, but it’s worrying that he hasn’t hit the ground running with any plans, is already back peddling on election commitments and is struggling to give direct answers to questions,” says Dr Coleman.
“Question Time today provided a typical example of Dr Clarke’s refusal, or worse, inability, to front up to any questions.
“In response to a media report that claimed that despite campaigning on an obesity target he is now ‘non-committal’ on whether the Government will set a target let alone what it will be, all he says is that ‘such reports are inaccurate’.
“In response to a separate media report that claims that he is reneging on election commitments to establish a surgical mesh registry, he just avoided the question.
“He needs to start answering questions on work that might or might not be underway.
“After nine years to prepare themselves, Labour should have started day one with a clear health plan. Instead, all they’ve done is announce an advisory group to tell them what the plan should be.
“The New Zealand public are going to want a lot more than that from the new Minister.”
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says a nationwide stroke awareness campaign has seen more New Zealanders reporting suspected strokes.
“Each year in New Zealand around 9,000 people have a stroke. Early identification and treatment are crucial to reduce the likelihood of brain damage and lasting harm,” says Dr Coleman.
“The successful FAST campaign returned to teach a simple message about how to recognise stroke symptoms, and the need to ring 111 fast.
“FAST stands for Face, Arm, Speech and Time (to call 111) - sudden changes to a person’s face such as drooping, loss of arm strength or impaired speech could all be warnings that they’re experiencing a stroke.
“It is important that campaigns like this can demonstrate they build awareness over time, and not just when they are running.
“The first campaign in 2016 increased calls for suspected stroke incidents to St John Ambulance by around 40 per week.
“During the most recent campaign, the average suspected stroke incidents recorded by St John rose from 160 to 196 per week which is an increase of 22 per cent - peaking at 231 incidents a week.
“Likewise, the average number of ambulance call-outs per week confirmed as strokes increased from 45 before the campaign, to 52 in July.
“This is all good news and it shows that as a result of the FAST campaigns more people recognise suspected strokes.
“St John advises that while all incidents weren’t necessarily strokes, they prefer people err on the side of caution and call 111 if they suspect a stroke at all.
“More will be known about the impact of the 2017 FAST campaign after a full evaluation is completed.”
The successful three-month multi-media campaign was funded by the Ministry of Health. It was developed and supported by the Health Promotion Agency and Stroke Foundation.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says new data shows that Pharmac is delivering more subsidised medicines, benefiting around 3.6 million Kiwis.
“Pharmac’s model for increasing New Zealander’s access to subsidised medicines and treatments is world class,” says Dr Coleman.
“3.6 million New Zealanders received a subsidised medicine in the last year - an increase of half a million more people since 2008/2009.
“New Zealanders received 45.8 million subsidised prescription items in 2016/17. That’s almost two million more subsidised prescriptions than the previous year, and over 10 million more compared to nine years ago.
“Around 180,000 Kiwis are now benefitting from new and widened access to medicines funded last year.
“Over the last nine years, almost 900,000 New Zealanders have benefited from 426 new and widened access medicines.
“DHBs are also benefiting as a result of Pharmac’s expanded role in national procurement of hospital medical devices - making savings which can be reinvested into frontline health services.
“This has led to cumulative savings in hospital medical devices and medicines of over $224 million since July 2013 - a saving of almost a quarter of a billion in four years.”
Pharmac received an extra $60 million in Budget 2017 to increase access to new medicines. The Government has increased Pharmac’s budget to a record $870 million for 2017/18 which is an increase of $220 million.
Overall an extra $888 million has been invested in the health sector this year taking the health budget to a record $16.8 billion in 2017/18.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says a growing number of Kiwis are being supported to manage their blood thinning medication through a pharmacist-led scheme.
“This Government has made providing care in the community and closer to home a priority,” says Dr Coleman.
“One of the ways we’re doing this is through the pharmacist-led warfarin scheme, which is a blood thinning medication which needs regular monitoring.
“In partnership with GPs, the service provides patients with a finger-prick blood test in their local pharmacy instead of visiting their GP or a laboratory. The results are available straightaway, allowing the pharmacist to adjust dosages immediately.
“At August 6,800 New Zealanders were registered with the pharmacist-led warfarin scheme compared to 6,310 in August 2016.
“That’s an increase of around 500 people who are now able to work directly with their local pharmacy to manage their dosage.
“A key expectation of the New Zealand Health Strategy I launched in 2015 is that care should be delivered closer to home where possible, and this initiative is a great example of that.
“It’s a smart system which also shows how we can make the best use of our pharmacists, who are a highly skilled group within our health workforce.
Pharmacist-led warfarin services were introduced as a pilot programme at 15 sites in 2010, and launched nationwide in 2012.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has welcomed news that Pharmac is on track to fund the vaccine for shingles (herpes zoster), as early as April 2018.
“The introduction of a free shingles vaccine for over 65’s would have a significant impact on reducing the harm caused by this common disease,” says Dr Coleman.
“Shingles is an infection that is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Symptoms include burning, sharp pain, tingling or numbness of the skin, a rash, a fever, chills, a headache and an upset stomach.
“Pharmac has completed the formal assessment of the funding application for the shingles vaccine. It found that the vaccine should be made available for people aged 65, with a two-year catch-up programme provided for those between 65 and 80 years of age.
“Between the ages of 65-80, there are 600,000 people who would all be eligible for the funded vaccine through the catch-up programme.
“Pharmac has issued a formal consultation for the vaccine and the feedback received from this will inform its decision-making.
“Once consultation is carried out, a decision on the funding of the vaccine will be made. The vaccine would be available free of charge from primary care practices.
“Vaccines take a number of months to manufacture and are made to order. In terms of timing, the introduction of any new vaccine needs careful planning in order to maximise uptake, educate vaccinators and minimise costs to the health system.
“The vaccine could be available as early as the influenza season commencing around April 2018.”
The shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine has been available for private purchase in New Zealand and has a long safety record internationally.
Sport and Recreation Minister Jonathan Coleman has awarded a number of grants to enable high school students around the country to play sport.
“Participating in sport is a key part of a Kiwi upbringing. It helps keep our teenagers active, making them healthier and happier, and teaches them valuable life skills,” says Dr Coleman.
“However, some teenagers and their families need a hand meeting the costs associated with sport, such as gear, uniforms and membership fees.
“To help with this, for the second year in a row the Government has partnered with the iSport Foundation to distribute the $44,000 Sport and Recreation Discretionary Fund to local kids who need a hand to reach their sporting goals.
“In the wake of the natural disasters in Kaikoura and Edgecumbe, $7,000 has gone specifically to these regions to help get high school students back to participating and competing in sport.
“Kaikoura High School has received $5,000 and Edgecumbe College $2,000 to replace damaged sports equipment and uniforms.”
161 individual grants ranging from $50 to $200 ($24,655 in total) have been awarded to high school students from around the country to help pay for subscriptions, uniforms and or sporting gear.
The grants covered a wide range of sporting codes, including but not limited to rugby, rugby league, football, basketball, netball, hockey, athletics, dragon boating, volleyball, cycling, martial arts, duathlon, weightlifting and sailing.
The remaining $11,823 has been distributed amongst 16 decile 1-3 high schools across Northland, Wellington, Auckland and the central North Island.
Over $9,000 has been shared between 15 schools to buy sports equipment and uniforms. $2,000 is going to the Southern Cross Campus in Auckland to help their 1st XV rugby team travel to Samoa on a sports exchange which will be the schools’ first overseas sports trip.
The iSport Foundation, founded by former All Black greats Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Ali Williams, has been supporting 12-18 year olds to achieve their sporting goals since 2009. It does this by providing grants and a crowdfunding platform as well as sports gear, leadership and inspiration.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says an interim evaluation of the Healthy Families NZ initiative has found it is helping communities around the country to make healthy changes.
“Healthy Families NZ is about encouraging people to live healthier lives by making good food choices, being physically active, moderating alcohol consumption and being smoke-free,” says Dr Coleman.
“The initiative challenges communities to think differently about how to address the underlying causes of poor health.
“It’s about thinking bigger, driving innovation, and creating good health in the places where we spend our time – early childhood education, schools, workplaces, sports clubs, marae and other community settings.
“An interim evaluation of the Healthy Families NZ, released today, has found that it is a promising approach which has been implemented with integrity to its intention and purpose.
“The initiative is well underway to strengthening our prevention system, and increasing the numbers of health promoting environments where people live, learn, work and play.
“Enabling and supporting Māori leadership is an integral part of Healthy Families NZ. The report finds that the design of the initiative has allowed local responsiveness and ensured Māori are prioritised.
“As a result of the initiative, we’re starting to see a number of positive changes happening in communities around the country.”
Healthy Families NZ is one of the 22 initiatives in the Childhood Obesity Plan which the Government launched in 2015. New Zealand is one of the first OECD countries to have a target and a comprehensive plan to help address childhood obesity.
Healthy Families NZ is operating in ten locations; Far North, Waitakere, Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura, Rotorua, East Cape, Whanganui, Lower Hutt, Christchurch, and Invercargill.
Across these regions, the initiative has the potential to impact the lives of over one million New Zealanders.
Healthy Families NZ is being supported by an annual investment of $10 million.
The Interim Evaluation Report was commissioned by the Ministry of Health and produced by Massey University. It is available on the Ministry of Health website here.
The design of these evaluations is to provide an ongoing assessment of the initiative with the next evaluation due in mid-2018.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says work is well underway towards double crewing all emergency road ambulances by 2021, with services in Taupo, Turangi and Te Awamutu on track to be double crewed in the coming months.
"The double crewing of all emergency road ambulances will help ensure patients get the best available care when they need it. It also enhances the safety and well-being of our dedicated ambulance staff,” says Dr Coleman.
“We’re creating 375 new emergency medical and paramedic roles across the country over the next four years to ensure all emergency road ambulance call outs are double crewed by 2021. This will be particularly beneficial for regional and rural communities.
“St John identified Taupo, Turangi and Te Awamutu as centres to start the roll-out of double crewing of all emergency road ambulance call-outs across the country.
“Eight emergency medical assistants have been recruited in the Taupo and Turangi area, and another four in Te Awamutu. These recruits will work with existing crew to ensure all emergency road ambulance call-outs will be double crewed in the coming months.
“Recruitment is underway in St John’s next group of regional priority areas, set to be double crewed by the end of the year, which include Tokoroa, Ohakune, Timaru, Westport, and Whangarei.
"To support road ambulances and to ensure that they are consistently double crewed when a helicopter also requires a paramedic on board, we are also recruiting more staff who can be deployed on helicopter services.
“St John is in the process of recruiting two intensive care paramedics for the Whangarei helicopter service. More crew will be recruited for helicopter services in Hamilton, Palmerston North, Napier and Christchurch.”
An extra $21 million has been allocated through Vote Health to support air ambulance services, emergency road ambulance services and ambulance communications centres over the next four years.
The Government has invested $59.2 million over the next four years for 375 additional ambulance staff which will ensure all emergency road ambulance call outs are double crewed by 2021.
Notes to Editors:
Double crewing will create 375 more paramedic and emergency medical roles over the next four years in the following districts