Pres­sure could ramp up

Cheaper vis­its and no ex­tra fund­ing will put strain on doc­tors

The New Zealand Herald - - News - Emma Rus­sell health

Cheaper doc­tor vis­its for more than 600,000 New Zealan­ders mark a win for health, but a sec­tor leader warns that it could put GPs un­der in­creased strain.

From De­cem­ber 1, free GP vis­its and pre­scrip­tions will be ex­tended to all chil­dren un­der 14, up from un­der 13s, along with cheaper rates for Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Card users.

That comes at a cost of $384.7 mil­lion over four years.

New Zealand Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion GP coun­cil chair­woman Dr Jan White said it was news worth cel­e­brat­ing. But with­out an in­crease in GP train­ing places there was a risk of the pol­icy be­ing “self-de­feated”.

“The Gov­ern­ment does need to be mind­ful of the in­creased de­mand it will bring for GPs,” White said.

Pre-elec­tion, Labour promised to in­crease fund­ing for GP train­ing places from 200 per year to 300.

“I’m hop­ing it’s some­thing that won’t fall off the Gov­ern­ment’s radar, be­cause other­wise this an­nounce­ment is self-de­feat­ing.”

The Bud­get also de­liv­ered $750m to district health boards for cap­i­tal spend­ing to tackle ur­gent build­ing needs for hos­pi­tals around the coun­try. “That rep­re­sents the big­gest cap­i­tal in­jec­tion in health in at least the last decade, ” Health Min­is­ter David Clark said yes­ter­day.

Clark said New Zealan­ders had been shocked to dis­cover that hos­pi­tals in some ar­eas are lit­er­ally rot­ting af­ter a decade of ne­glect and un­der­in­vest­ment by the pre­vi­ous Gov­ern­ment.

“There is a sig­nif­i­cant back­log of work, which will take more than one Bud­get to rem­edy.”

Some ex­perts have sug­gested yes­ter­day’s health fund­ing an­nounce­ment “only scratches the sur­faces”. The Gov­ern­ment had ear­lier fore­cast health boards needed $14b for cap­i­tal alone over the next 10 years.

As­so­ci­a­tion of Salar­ied Med­i­cal

Spe­cial­ists (ASMS) di­rec­tor of pol­icy and re­search Lyn­don Keene said this year’s Bud­get al­lo­ca­tion was much big­ger than last year’s $150m but a lot more was needed. “The $750m is only a small chunk of that but I guess it’s a start.”

That money was in ad­di­tion to a $3.2b boost for health ser­vices over four years, an­nounced yes­ter­day.

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