Health

Alliance Party Health Policy

Preamble

  • Our public hospitals are under-funded. Many District Health Boards are deeply in debt. People wait far too long for specialist treatment because hospitals are understaffed and under resourced. The first priority of many doctors and surgeons is their private practices.

  • Those who can afford to pay for medical insurance get treatment in private hospitals, while the poor have to wait in line.

  • The Alliance supported the establishment of PHOs to improve access to primary healthcare, but the number of doctors in poorer communities has not increased and the PHOs in these areas are struggling.

  • We supported free doctors’ visits for children under 6, but parents are still being charged for medical attention for after-hours treatment, which is when children often get sick.

  • Although many doctors do not charge for consultations, the prescriptions cost money and are often not picked up. Early treatment of acute illness and getting rid of financial barriers to preventive care will improve health outcomes and save on costs later on. For example, regular use of inhalers can prevent emergency visits to hospitals for acute asthma attacks.

  • Reducing poverty by lifting workers’ wages, raising benefit levels and improving housing is the key to a healthy society. Simple measures like bringing back the universal family benefit and providing free school lunches will immediately improve child nutrition.

  • As older people have been encouraged to stay in their homes for longer, those in rest homes and hospitals have become increasingly frail, but the Government funding has not kept up with the higher level of care required. Religious and welfare organisations that once dominated the sector are now being squeezed out by large private corporations. These won’t operate in rural areas where they can’t make a profit for their shareholders and they don’t cater for the poor.

  • Nurses in public hospitals have made huge steps towards pay equity, but caregivers and other support workers earning $10 to $12 an hour often work excessive hours just to make ends meet. The public hospitals cut costs by contracting out cleaning, security, laundry and kitchen services to private companies that cut the workers’ hours and took away their overtime rates.

  • The debt burden carried by many young health professionals as a result of user-pays education is an incentive to go overseas. Doctors often have debts of $100,000 before they are even registered. Up till now, nurses have earned so little they faced the prospect of never paying off their student debt.

We stand for the following policies

The Alliance would increase health funding through a dedicated health levy of 1%, which would add around $900 million to the projected health vote. This would turn the New Zealand health system around. What could be done with the money?

  • Provide free doctors’ consultations, remove prescription charges, reduce waiting lists.

  • More money for public health initiatives such as sexual and reproductive health.

  • Address urgent needs in mental health care and in the disabilities sector.

  • Provide free hearing and eye tests, and free dental check-ups.

  • Make child health a national priority. Support facilities to treat children’s illnesses and publicly fund a national immunisation programme. Adequately fund Plunket well child services as an investment in our future. Introduce free school meals for all children and a universal family benefit.

  • Directly employ all cleaners, laundry workers, kitchen staff and security staff in public hospitals on national pay and conditions. Where the Government funds services such as aged care, require providers to match the public sector in staffing standards and pay.

  • Abolish student fees and pay students a living allowance so young health professionals start their careers debt-free.

  • End subsidies for private health – for example, recover costs when patients are transferred from private hospitals to public hospitals in emergencies.

  • Keep remaining rural hospitals open and plan hospital services so that 90% of New Zealanders are less than 60 minutes away by road.

  • Address issues around the election and appointment of DHB members to ensure meaningful community control of health provision and put an end to wasteful bureaucracy.