28 May 2009

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) welcomed today’s Budget which reaffirms the Government’s commitment to solving our long term health workforce problems.

“This is a positive budget for health. The Minister has been well informed, and in these difficult financial times should be complemented for securing such a commitment to initiatives that will improve the viability and quality of our health system. While much of this is funding needed to keep pace with rising costs, there is some real new money,” said NZMA Chairman Dr Peter Foley.

“The NZMA is pleased with confirmed funding for new medical training places, extra places for general practitioner training, the previously announced voluntary bonding scheme, and the sourcing and training of 800 additional health professionals over the next four years, ” said Dr Peter Foley.

“The health workforce is facing huge problems, particularly in recruiting and retaining staff. New Zealand needs to be self-sufficient in its employment of health professionals. This funding goes some way towards finally addressing the shortages of our health workforce.”

“We are also supportive, after many years of advocating for such a scheme, to see that $15.3 million has been committed over two years, starting in 2011/12, into voluntary bonding for hard to staff health professions and locations. This is a crucial policy to help alleviate the health workforce crisis.”

Dr Foley said the NZMA was especially pleased to see, as promised by the Government, that DHBs would receive extra funding to devolve some hospital services to primary care. “This new funding must act as a reminder for DHBs that the Primary Health Care Strategy was launched in 2001, and that they must be looking outside their hospital walls for more of the solutions that can effectively deliver more cost-effective services to the community”.

“The NZMA looks forward to working with the Government to make further progress on these initiatives.”

The NZMA has previously welcomed the funding to boost maternity services but Dr Foley said that until maternity services are reintegrated into the rest of the primary care framework, new funding measures such as obstetric training for GPs were unlikely to entice GPs back into delivering maternity care.

“Maternity services are disconnected from primary care. Medical and midwifery services need to be coordinated so that women have both real choice and the best quality care.”

The NZMA is also supportive of the initiatives that will improve the home environment of so many, the needed increase in funding for aged care, and for palliative care.