10 August 2014

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) welcomes the public health focus in the Labour Party health policies released today. 

“The priorities set out in these policies are the same areas the NZMA has been advocating for over the past years,” says NZMA Chair Dr Mark Peterson. “Reducing health inequalities is a key concern for the NZMA. The co-ordinated approach set out in the policy—across housing, the deprivation of children, access to health services and safe workplaces, as well as social welfare—is promising. They also include a focus on measures to combat obesity, smoking and alcohol abuse.”

The NZMA also welcomes the proposed increases to funding, particularly the increased primary care subsidies. “But we note that, while the amount of the increase is significant, appropriate targeting is still an issue,” says Dr Peterson.

“The proposals are for fully funded care for children under 13 and adults over 65, but this still leaves out a significant proportion of those in need. There are also no details around the extension of Very Low Cost Access funding. It’s still worrying that this subsidy may continue to be targeted by post code rather – rather than by need. This needs to be clarified.”

Dr Peterson believes the extension to the Care Plus programme is positive, as is the extra care for pregnant women. “This may be a chance to improve the integration of services in maternity care—something we’ve been waiting for for some years.”

However Dr Peterson notes that, while the Labour Party has acknowledged that it needs to talk with general practice about how these increased subsidies should be introduced, fully subsidised care has been promised to other groups without that sort of discussion. “General Practitioners are private businesses, not state employees and need to be able to set appropriate fees. For visits to be free to patients, General Practice needs to agree that the subsidy is sufficient to cover the significant costs associated with running a Practice,” he says.