22 May 2008

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) welcomed many of the initiatives outlined in today's Budget, but noted that there were few new significant announcements and some notable areas where major funding was not forthcoming.

"The NZMA particularly welcomes the announcement of $80 million of new funding for implementing the Primary Health Care Strategy over the next four years," said NZMA Chairman Dr Peter Foley.

"We are especially pleased to see the funding for pharmacy dispensing co-payments extended to hospital and after hours patients. This corrects a serious anomaly and it is one the NZMA has long advocated for.

"Much of the primary health care funding increase is unspecified, and the NZMA looks forward to working with the Government to develop new initiatives."

While the Budget contains a number of worthwhile workforce initiatives, the NZMA is very disappointed that there is no comprehensive funding available for workforce strategies.

"The Government has missed a major opportunity to tackle our already stressed workforce, which is facing shortages in many areas. 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. Yet there is no funding put aside to implement the forthcoming recommendations from the Medical Training Board, and no extra places are funded at our medical schools."

Dr Foley said increased funding to train more GPs was very welcome, as is funding to allow more junior doctors to have rural placements.

Also missing in the Budget was any indication of significantly increased funding for the government's drug-purchasing agency Pharmac. A good case has been made for the funding of many new pharmaceuticals, which would improve the health of many New Zealanders.

Also welcomed were:

  • $160 million over four years for increased elective surgery, including funding to treat 12,000 more patients in primary care. 
  • $5 million this year to support after hours primary health care in rural areas. This will support a sector where general practice has been under a huge amount of strain.
  • $32 million over four years for smoking cessation.
  • Nearly $12 million over four years for a bedside verification of drugs system in public hospitals, to improve patient safety.
  • $164.2 million over five years for the human papillomavirus immunisation programme.
  • $40 million over four years for the pneumococcal vaccine.
  • $52 million over four years to fight obesity.
  • $28 million over four years for innovation in the health sector.