Petition demands healthcare boost

Hawke’s Bay Today, Hawke’s Bay by Doug Laing Doug 16 May 2017

A petition delivered to Napier MP Stuart Nash calling for huge increases in health funding amid complaints of chronic delays in surgery will go into the queue for possible parliamentary consideration later this week.

The petition was delivered to the Labour MP at his Napier office yesterday and asks the Government to make up a “missing” $1.85 billion in the Budget, which will be delivered in Parliament on May 25.

Napier woman Eve Lemm, who collected signatures for the ActionStation petition and was joined in presenting the document by ActionStation community campaign manager Eliot Pryor, of Auckland, Ruatoria ambulance officer Kim Stainton and Havelock North supporter John Timpson, said she was “horrified” by the number of complaints she had heard about health service shortcomings in Hawke’s Bay, with her own experiences as a breast cancer patient a case in point.

“The first surgery I had took 105 days from my GP’s referral to treatment,” she said. “I think that’s far too long – and I’m not alone.” Three and a half years later she was told further surgery was not possible because of a lack of funding. Instead she was offered breast reduction surgery at a private hospital in Lower Hutt.

“It’s supposed to take a maximum of 62 days from referral to treatment,” she said, “but for me – and many other people in Hawke’s Bay – it’s taking much longer.” Mr Timpson was particularly concerned by a healthcare-for-profit philosophy that was writing many people out of adequate treatment, and, while buoyed by a prebudget announcement of funding to ensure full crews for ambulances, Ms Stainton remains concerned about the lagging funding of health services.

National health target quarterly results in November showed the Hawke’s Bay DHB ranked 18th out of the nation’s 20 health boards for faster cancer treatment, missing the target of 85 per cent of patients receiving their first cancer treatment within 62 days of being referred, with 66 per cent referred. Only one DHB reached the target.

Ms Lemm said that since 2010 Government funding for the country’s 20 district health boards had been cut by $1.85 billion because inflation, a growing and ageing population and the increasing cost of medicines had not been taken into account.

“We are asking the Government to make up the missing $1.85 billion in this month’s Budget,” she said. “New Zealanders are entitled to a healthcare system that is there when and where they need it, that takes care of those who care for us, and which provides quality mental health care. We are not getting any of that at the moment.” She said funding the shortfall would pay for an extra 7400 doctors, 27,750 nurses or 111,000 hip operations.

Mr Nash said Labour had been aware “for years” of the cutting of $1.7 billion. He was also horrified by stories he was hearing and said: “It’s difficult for some people to understand a sum like a billion dollars, but that’s where the sum is – in those stories.” He said he expected the petition to go through to go a parliamentary committee.

St John ambulance service welcomed Sunday’s announcement by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman that more than $100 million will be included in the Budget to provide double crewing of all emergency ambulance responses, over four years.

An increase of 430 frontline jobs nationwide will include 69 more fulltime ambulance service roles in the Hawke’s Bay, Whanganui, Central South region, and introduce a new funding model to meet growing demand for ambulance services, while addressing historic shortfalls.

Chief executive Peter Bradley said ending single crewing was one of the most significant developments in the ambulance service history and would give rural New Zealand the same crew levels as urban areas.

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