19 May 2011

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) welcomes a number of initiatives announced in today’s Budget that will improve health outcomes and is pleased that nearly half of new Government money will go into health services. “We welcome this funding allocation and the priority placed on health, especially at a time of austerity and fiscal constraint,” says NZMA Chair Dr Paul Ockelford.

“The NZMA is particularly pleased to see some of the health budget targeted at reducing the very high rates of rheumatic fever which has been rightly labelled a national disgrace. Rheumatic fever rates are a striking example of health inequities in this country and it is positive to see a commitment towards eradicating what is a preventable illness that has serious health consequences for children.”

Dr Ockelford says that the NZMA health equity position statement, published in March, highlights the importance of a child focused approach as it influences good health outcomes for the remainder of an individual’s life.

The $80 million extra for GP visit subsidies and $14 million for more people qualifying in programmes, such as very low cost access and free under sixes, will be helpful in improving access to primary healthcare services.

The NZMA welcomes the funding of 40 extra medical training places which is part of the Government’s pledge to boost the number of medical training places by 200 over five years.

“This is a real positive, although the NZMA has some concern that there has not been increased funding for initiatives, such as the Voluntary Bonding Scheme, to help alleviate medical and wider health workforce shortages. However these initiatives appear to be working well and we would like to see the momentum continue. We would hope that there may be a boost in funding for these areas in future.”

“In order to meet health targets such as improved access to elective surgery and shorter waiting times for cancer treatment, we must ensure that we continue working towards attaining a self-sufficient workforce.”

The NZMA also supports increased funding for dementia care particularly as our population ages and dementia becomes more prevalent in our community.

Dr Ockelford says that the environment is a difficult one with the demand for health services growing every year, especially at a time of severe economic constraint “but we are pleased to see health given such a high priority.”

The NZMA is supportive of the following budget announcements:

  • $80 million for increasing access to medicines, including medicines not previously subsidised such as new cancer treatments, the first Alzheimer’s disease drug and diabetes medicines.
  • $40 million extra for dementia care over four years including funding increases for residential dementia services.
  • A further $68 million over four years to increase funding for elective surgery.
  • $130 million for disability support services to meet rising needs and costs.
  • Pre-budget announcement of $54.5 million extra for maternity services.