The Government Giveth and the Government Taketh Away - Part 2
Conrad - 6/6/98
If you haven't already, check
out Part 1...
The state of the New Zealand Health system has been under scrutiny a
lot recently. Firstly there was the Taranaki-King Country by-election
which gave the voters the chance to protest against the Government by
voting for the opposition. In this case the anti-Government vote seemed
to go mainly to ACT who are even more right-wing than National, which
is a pretty strange way to protest against hospital closures in rural
New Zealand when ACT would like to privatise the entire Health system.
National campaigned on the Health issue by not promising not to close
rural hospitals or cut rural elective surgery, if you don't mind the
double negative, as obviously those who voted National didn't. This
means that they have not ruled out a future where those in rural areas
have to travel to one of the main centres for elective surgery, which
just adds to the ignominy when you're already on a waiting list.
Then came the budget last week where with one hand the Government
pledged a 6% funding increase to help tackle the waiting lists, among
other things. I'm sure the woman on a 130 year waiting list for leg
surgery will be relieved to know she will only have to wait 20 fewer
However with the other hand they've slashed about one quarter of those
on the waiting lists by sending them back to their GP and giving them
the option of private surgery or having their condition medically
managed. Yes the waiting list problem tackled with the stroke of a
pen! Never mind that they were on the waiting list in the first place
because their GP had already decided that was the best option and
because they couldn't afford private surgery. As John Banks said
"It's rather like a food bank telling people to go to a supermarket
The most important news in the Budget for Health however was that
hospitals would now be called hospitals, rather than CHE's (Crown
Health Enterprises), despite everyone apart from Ministers having
continued to call them hospitals anyway. Their next major employment
initiative may be to rename the Income Support Service as the Dole Office.
Perhaps Treasury could be renamed the Department of Unemployment Expansion.
Meanwhile there are fears that the Ambulance Service will be
'restructured' in the same way the Fire Service is to be (see
There have been several stories in the media over recent months about
people who have died while waiting for a heart operation because of
the length of the waiting list. Each time Bill English (Minister of
Health) has issued a public apology. When is the Government going to
realise that the state of the Health system and the preciousness of
peoples lives is more important to the country than another frigate,
or the allowance for a retired MP's family to fly to Europe for free.
Published with permission from NZine