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Posts Tagged ‘health cuts’

Cutting taxes toward more user-pays – the Great Kiwi Con

31 January 2017 1 comment

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Introduction

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The following is the amount spent by Labour, on Vote Education in the 2008 Budget;

Total 2008 Vote Education: $10,775,482,000 (in 2008 dollars)

Total students in 2009: 751,330* 

spend per student: $14,341.88

The following is the amount spent by National, on Vote Education in the 2016 Budget;

Total 2016 Vote Education: $11,044,598,000 (in 2016 dollars)

Total students in 2016: 776,948**

spend per student in 2016 dollars: $14,215.36

Total 2016 Vote Education: $9,608,800,000 (re-calculated in 2008 dollars)

spend per student in 2008 dollars: $12,367.37

Calculated in real terms (2008 dollars), National’s spending on Vote Education was $1,166,682,000 less last year than Labour budgetted in 2008.

In dollar terms, in 2016, National spent less per student ($14,215.36) than Labour did in 2008 ($14,341.88). Converting National’s $14,215.36 from 2016 dollars to 2008 dollars, and the sum spent  per student is even less: 12,367.37.

In real terms, National has cut the total*** education budget by $1,974.51 per student.

*  Not including 9,529 international fee-paying students

**  Not including 11,012 international fee-paying students

*** Total spent on Vote Education, not just schools and tertiary education.

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Tax-cuts and Service-cuts

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Writing in the Daily Blog recently, political commentator Chris Trotter had this to say on the matter of taxation and social services;

Speaking on behalf of the NewLabour Party, I felt obliged to spell out the realities of tertiary education funding. I told them that they could have free education or low taxes – but they could not have both. If the wealthy refused to pay higher taxes, then students would have to pay higher fees. If the middle class (i.e. their family) was serious about keeping young people (i.e. themselves) out of debt, then they would have to vote for a party that was willing to restore a genuinely progressive taxation system.”

Since 1986, there have been no less than seven tax-cuts;

1 October 1986 – Labour

1 October 1988 – Labour

1 July 1996 – National

1 July 1998 – National

1 October 2008 – Labour

1 April 2009 – National

1 October 2010 – National

 

The 2010 tax-cuts alone were estimated to cost the State  $2 billion in lost revenue.

Taxes were raised in 2000 by the incoming Labour government, to inject  much needed funding for a cash-strapped health sector. The previous National government, led by Bolger and later Shipley, had gutted the public health service. Hospital waiting lists grew. People waited for months, if not years, for life-saving operations. Some died – still waiting.

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During that time, National cut taxes twice (see above). Funding for public healthcare suffered and predictably, private health insurance capitalised on peoples’ fears;

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A decade late, National’s ongoing cuts, or under-funding, of state services such as the Health budget have resulted in wholly predictable – and preventable – negative outcomes;

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A critic of National’s under-funding of the health system, Phil Bagshaw, pointed out the covert agenda behind the cuts;

New Zealand’s health budget has been declining for almost a decade and could signal health reforms akin to the sweeping changes of the 1990s, new research claims.

[…]

The accumulated “very conservative” shortfall over the five years to 2014-15 was estimated at $800 million, but could be double that, Canterbury Charity Hospital founder and editorial co-author Phil Bagshaw said.

Bagshaw believed the Government was moving away from publicly-funded healthcare, and beginning to favour a model that meant everyone had to pay for their own.

“It’s very dangerous. If this continues we will slide into an American-style healthcare system.”

Funding cuts to the Health sector have been matched with increases to charges;

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cuts to NGOs offering support services;

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… and  leaving district health boards in dire financial straits;

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The critical correlation between  tax cuts and consequential reduction of state services was nowhere better highlighted then by US satirist and commentator,  Seth Meyer. He was unyielding with his  scathing, mocking, examination of  the travesty of the Kansas Example of “minimalist government”;

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Here in New Zealand, National’s funding cuts have not been restricted to the Health sector and NGOs. Government agencies from  the Police , Radio NZ, to the Department of Conservation have had their funding slashed (or frozen –  a cut after inflation is factored in).

The exception has been the Prime Minister’s department which, since 2008, has enjoyed a massive  increase of $24,476,000 since 2008 and  a near-doubling of John Key’s department and Cabinet expenditure since Michael Cullen’s last budget, seven years previously.

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Tax cuts, slashed services, and increasing user-pays

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By contrast,  parents are finding more and more that the notion of a free state education is quietly and gradually slipping away. User-pays has crept into the schools and universities – with harsh penalties for those who fail to pay.

In May 2013, National’s Tertiary Education Minister, Steven Joyce, announced;

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student-loan-defaulters-to-face-border-arrest

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True to his word, in January 2016, the first person was arrested for allegedly “defaulting on his student loan”. By November the same year, a third person had been arrested. Joyce was unrepentant;

“There probably will be more, we don’t know of course how many are in Australia but that’s a very good start, and I think it’s probably a reasonable proportion of those who are in Australia.”

Joyce, of course, has nothing to fear from being arrested for defaulting on a student loan. His tertiary education was near-free, paid for by the tax-payer.

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National had no choice, of course. The entire premise of user-pays was predicated on citizens paying services that until the late ’80s/early ’90s, had been either free or near-free. With student debt now at an astronomical $14.84 billion, National cannot afford to let ‘debtors’ get off scott-free. That would send the entire unjust system crashing to the ground.   According to Inland Revenue;

… nearly 80,000 of the 111,000 New Zealanders living overseas were behind on their student loan repayments.

IRD collections manager Stuart Duff said about 22 percent of borrowers living overseas were in Australia.

He said the $840m owed to New Zealand was a substantial amount of debt.

Figures show that student debt has been increasing every year since it’s inception in 1992. At this rate, student debt will achieve Greece-like proportions;

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Graphic: acknowledgement - NZ Herald

Graphic acknowledgement:  NZ Herald

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Unsurprisingly, loan ‘defaulters’ have surpassed $1 billion, including $16 million  written off through bankruptcy. Some never pay off their “debt” with $19 million  lost after death of the borrower.

But it is not only tertiary education that has attracted a user-pay factor. School funding has also been frozen, with operational grants the most recent to suffer National’s budgetary cuts;

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Education, Inc.

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Schools are so starved of funds that they are having to rely on outside sources of income  to make up shortfalls;

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schools-using-foreigners-fees-to-staff-classrooms

 

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Reliance on foreign students to make up shortfalls in government spending is essentially turning our schools into commercial ventures; touting for “business” and ensuring “clients” achieve good results so as to ensure repeat custom.

When did we vote for a policy which effectively commercialised our education system?

Schools are also funded more and more by parents – to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Fund-raising and ever-increasing school fees are required, lest our schools become financially too cash-strapped to function.

In 2014, school “donations” (actually fees by another name) and necessary fundraising reached  $357 million and is estimated to reach a staggering $1 billion by this year;

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parents-fundraise-357m-for-free-schooling

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It is estimated that a child born this year will cost his/her parents $38,362 for thirteen years of  a “free” state education. In 2007, that cost was 33,274. Our supposedly “free” state education is being gradually whittled away, and replaced with surreptitious user-pays. According to Radio NZ;

Some school principals say many schools are considering a hike in parent donations next year and cutting teacher aide hours, as they respond to a freeze on core school funding.

More than 300 school principals responded to a survey by teacher unions.

About 40 percent of school principals said they were considering cutting back on the hours of teacher aides and other support staff next year.

Thirteen percent said they were looking to increase parent donations.

The president of the teacher union NZEI, Louise Green, said the survey showed it was students who miss out when school funding was frozen.

The neo-liberal princiciple of user-pays is being covertly implemented throughout the public sector and nowhere is this more apparent than in education. Parents and guardians are expected to pay more for education and this is “off-set” by cuts to taxes. This is core to the concept of user-pays.

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User-pays is hard to pay

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The problem is that this is not an overt policy by National. The public have not been given a clear choice in the matter and instead increasing user-pays has crept in, barely noticed by the voting public. Even when challenged, a National Minister will use mis-information to attempt to use Trump-like “alternative facts” to hide what is happening;

But Education Minister Hekia Parata said parents contributed just $1.80 for every $100 spent by the taxpayer on education.

The Government was set to invest $10.8 billion in early childhood, primary and secondary education, more than the combined budget for police, defence, roads and foreign affairs.

New Zealanders have been lulled into a false sense of security that, even after seven tax cuts, we still have “free” education.  But as Chris Trotter pointed out with cool logic;

I told them that they could have free education or low taxes – but they could not have both.

The question is, what kind of society do New Zealanders want: a free education system or  tax cuts and more user-pays?

Because we can’t have both.

At the moment, politicians are making this choice for us.

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Postscript

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From a Dominion Post article on 24 January;

Student loans are getting bigger and graduates are taking longer to pay back the money they owe.

Figures from last year’s Student Loan Scheme Annual Report show the median loan balance in this country grew from $10,833 in 2008 to $14,904 in 2016.

The median repayment time for someone with a bachelor’s degree also lifted from just over six years, to eight and a half.

Since a peak in 2005, the numbers of people taking up tertiary education have declined.

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Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said there was a variety of factors that lead to higher student loans and longer repayment times. Tuition fees continued to rise, as did living costs.

“The long term impact for people is quite significant, basically they have a large debt for longer,” Hipkins said.

“If they’re weighed down with student loan debt it will be difficult to get on the property ladder, it’s already a burden, and this is making it even harder for the next generation.”

Universities New Zealand executive director Chris Whelan said that when it came to universities fees increasing, one need only look at published annual accounts of the country’s eight universities to see they were not “raking in” a lot of money.

Currently two-thirds of the cost of tuition was covered by subsidies, and one-third was covered by the student.

LOANS ON THE RISE

Median loan balances

2010 – $11,399

2012 – $12,849

2014 – $13,882

2016 – $14,904

Median repayment times for a bachelors/graduate certificates or diplomas

2010 – 6.9 years

2012 – 7.8 years

2014 – 8.5 years

 

 

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References

Reserve Bank NZ: Inflation calculator

Treasury: Vote Education 2008

Treasury: Vote Education 2016

Educationcounts: School RollsStudent Rolls by School 2005-2009

Educationcounts: School RollsStudent Rolls by School 2010-2016

The Daily Blog:  Don’t Riot For A Better Society: Vote For One!

Infonews: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

The Press: Four forced off waiting list die

Otago Daily Times:  Heartwatch Insurance Cover

Radio NZ: Patients have ‘severe loss of vision’ in long wait for treatment

Fairfax media: Researchers claim NZ health budget declining, publicly-funded surgery on way out

Radio NZ: Patients suffering because of surgery waits – surgeon

Fairfax media:  Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

TVNZ News: Kiwi charities and NGOs face closure with impending funding cuts

NBR: Leaked document shows 10 District Health Boards face budget cuts – King

Fairfax media: Police shut 30 stations in effort to combat budget cuts

Youtube: Kansas Tax Cuts –  A Closer Look

Scoop media: Budget cuts continue National’s miserly underfunding of DOC

Fairfax media: Student loan defaulters to face border arrest

NBR: Arrested student loan defaulter claims to be Cook Island PM’s relative

Fairfax media: Third arrest of student loan defaulter made following government crackdown

Radio NZ: Govt tightens education purse strings

NZ Herald: ‘At risk’ school funding revealed – with 1300 to lose out under new model

Fairfax media: Student loan borrowers seeking bankruptcy as millions in debts wiped due to insolvency

NZ Herald:   Schools using foreigners’ fees to staff classrooms

NZ Herald: Parents fundraise $357m for ‘free’ schooling

NZ Herald: Parents paid $161m for children’s ‘free education

NZ Herald:   School costs: $40,000 for ‘free’ state education

Motherjones: Trickle-Down Economics Has Ruined the Kansas Economy

The New Yorker: Covert Operations

CBS News: Kansas loses patience with Gov. Brownback’s tax cuts

Kansas City Star: Gov. Sam Brownback cuts higher education as Kansas tax receipts fall $53 million short

Bloomberg: Kansas Tried Tax Cuts. Its Neighbor Didn’t. Guess Which Worked

Fairfax media: Tourism industry claims DOC will be severely handicapped by funding cuts

Previous related blogposts

The slow starvation of Radio NZ – the final nail in the coffin of the Fourth Estate?

12 June – Issues of Interest – User pays healthcare?

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 16: No one deserves a free tertiary education (except my mates and me)

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 19: Tax Cuts Galore! Money Scramble!

The seductiveness of Trumpism

Steven Joyce – Hypocrite of the Week

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 January 2017.

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Letter to the editor – More reassurances from our esteemed Dear Leader?

29 July 2015 3 comments

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>
date: Wed, Jul 29, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
The Listener

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Recent admission by our esteemed Prime Minister that the TPPA will likely see an increase in pharmaceutical costs for Pharmac is both disturbing but unsurprising. The secretive nature of the TPPA negotiations hinted at a “sting in the tail” that would impact on our healthcare.

On 25 July, Foreign Trade Minister, Tim Groser, promised hand on heart in an interview on ‘The Nation’;

“…yes, I can guarantee that we’ve made it absolutely clear that we are not going to dismantle the fundamental of Pharmac. The provisions that guarantee affordable medicines – we don’t want to change the system of health we’ve got in our country so that people can get medicines only if they can afford it. We’ve got a very good system, and we’re not going to let any trade agreement interfere with that.”

But only three days later, Key conceded;

“That means the Government will have to pay for the original drug rather than the generic for a little bit longer. But for consumers that won’t make any difference because, you know, on subsidised drugs you pay $5 for your prescription so the Government may incur slightly more costs there.”

Key’s assurances are questionable.

It should be pointed out that it is not Government that “will have to pay for the original drug rather than the generic for a little bit longer” – it is the taxpayer.

That extra cost for medicines will have to come from the Health Budget and one has to ask what will be cut back? Hip operations for the elderly? Grommets for children? Eye cataract surgery for the blind? National has a track record for shifting money from one area of healthcare to another, to appear as if funding has been “increased” for the lucky recipient.

Or will National simply increase prescription charges to cover increased pharmaceutical costs for Pharmac? National has already increased prescription charges from $3 to $5 in 2013 – a move that impacted on the sickest, poorest, and most vulnerable in this country.

Not for one moment do I accept Key’s assurances on this issue. He has gone back on his word before, and I expect him to do it again.

-Frank Macskasy

 

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[address and phone number supplied]


 

References

Radio NZ:  TPP – Key admits medicine costs will rise

TV3: The Nation – Transcript – Trade Minister Tim Groser

Previous related blogposts

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall


 

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toby morris - tppa - cartoon

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National fiddles – while Cancer Kills

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Fun Fact 1: New Zealand has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the world. Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand. More than 2800 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and more than 1200 die from the disease. By 2016 the number of new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed each year is projected to increase by 15% for men and 19% for women to 3302 (for all ages). Ministry of Health

Fun Fact 2: Bowel cancer is more common as you get older, particularly from the age of 50. Bowel cancer affects more men than women. IBID

Fun Fact 3: People who are diagnosed with bowel cancer, and receive treatment when it is at an early stage, have a 90% chance of long term survival. If there is a delay in diagnosis and treatment, and the cancer is more advanced, it is harder to cure. Bowel screening can detect cancer early, when it can be more successfully treated.  IBID

It is a sobering statistic that we try to ignore and put out of our minds; more than 2,800 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and more than 1,200 die from the disease. If that were a death toll from a communicable disease, the media would be carrying front page newspaper stories  and lead bulletins on 6PM news. The government would impose a State of Emergency, and strict travel conditions imposed on everyone.

But we don’t.

Bowel cancer is hidden away. Victims are not acknowledged.   People go about their every day lives. Media focuses on sensationalism or trivia (with few exceptions).  Government does nothing. The death toll continues to rise.

And it is wholly preventable.

In October 2011, the Ministry of Health began a four-year-long bowel screening pilot in the Waitemata District Health Board area. The screening was offered to  everyone aged between  50 to 74, living within  the Waitemata DHB zone, and who was eligible for publicly funded healthcare. Those lucky to be eligible were sent an invitation letter, a consent form along with detailed instructions, and the necessary free bowel-screening test kit.

By July 2013,  data from the screening pilot detected cancers  in seventyfive people within the first fifteen months of the pilot. Around 60% had been picked up at an early stage when they could be more successfully treated.

Between  1 January 2012 to 31 December 2013,  six thousand people had a colonoscopy or a CT colonography through the Bowel Screening Pilot.  By 1 April 2015, two hundred and fiftyfive people had been identified with a cancer.

Those are 255 people who might not have approached their medical clinic for a test screening kit, or followed up with a colonoscopy. Those are 255 people whose cancer was detected early, and who had necessary treatment.

The pilot screening have also picked up non-cancerous polyps (adenomas) and those  participants will still be at an  increased risk of developing more adenomas or bowel cancer. These participants will require on-going regular bowel checks  in the future.

The initial four year pilot project, initially costing $24 million, was extended to the end of 2017, with a further $12.4 million invested in the programme. But only in the Waitemata District Health Board area. Those living outside the WDHB are not eligible to participate.

That result is from just one DHB “catchement” area. There are twenty DHBs  throughout the country. If similar results were obtained from the nineteen other DHBs, that could mean approximately 5,100 people detected with cancer.

The government’s response can best be described as slow – at worst, reluctant to invest in a nationwide programme. On 6 July, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman announced a graduated roll-out of a nationwide screening programme.

First, Minister Coleman began with the usual meaningless platitudes;

Delivering better cancer services is a top priority for the Government. Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in New Zealand.”

Minister Coleman then explained in a little more detail;

I expect to take a business case to Cabinet by the end of the year which will consider a potential staged roll out of a national bowel screening programme from early 2017.”

However, note the caveats;

I expect to take a business case to Cabinet by the end of the year which will consider a potential staged roll out….”

To inform the next steps towards a possible roll out of a national bowel screening programme, the Ministry of Health will be consulting with the health sector and other agencies on how the service could be provided across the DHBs.”

So not only will any nationwide extension of the life-saving screening programme not begin until “early” 2017 – which happens to be an election year (no connection of course)  – but at this stage it is still only  a   “possible” or “potential staged roll out”. At this point, Coleman will be only be taking “a business case to Cabinet by the end of the year”.

Unsurprisingly, health advocates and professionals are not impressed

Bowel Cancer NZ’s, Dr Sarah Derrett, did not hold back when she condemned National’s lethargic response to the sucessful screeing programme;

Currently this Government is more interested in holding a referendum for a flag as a legacy to our Prime Minister at a cost of $26.5 million than it is at saving lives… it was scandalous there had been no action on a national programme, given 1200 people a year die from bowel cancer in New Zealand.

Bowel Cancer NZ’s chairwoman, Mary Bradley, was also scathing;

We are really pleased that this is happening and that they are talking about a staged roll-out, but we would like to see potential moved to definite roll-out in 2017.

We would like to see a staged roll out now or a start next year would be fantastic. We’ve always known it [screening] is proven, so why wasn’t it done sooner. It could have happened a couple of years ago. This is great, but it’s taken a long time to get here. In the meantime, people are dying.

There is no feasible reason why Coleman is delaying a national extension of this screening programme that has already saved 255 people.  Delaying the roll out condemns hundreds of New Zealanders to a horrible illness and unnecessary death.

Coleman claims that that the delay is caused by a shortage of skilled staff;

The largest constraint to a national bowel screening programme is having the workforce to do the colonoscopies. There are a number of initiatives underway to address this.

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Initiatives to strengthen the endoscopy workforce include increasing the number of gastroenterology trainees. The sector is also considering increasing the use of CT colonography where appropriate.

Yet, the pilot programme has been in operation since October 2011 – giving this government a lead time of five years to begin training required staff. Where was the planning for staffing a nationwide screening programme that was being considered after the  Waitemata DHB pilot?

Did no one at the Ministry of Health or the Health Minister’s office pause to think; “Ok, what happens after the pilot?!

The only possible explanation for this tardiness is purely financial. As Bill English attempts to balance the books and deliver a budget surplus, cuts to health services become more invasive;

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Health fund loses $18 million

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National’s reluctance to spend on much-needed, critical services is no secret. Successive National governments have cut services, whilst giving away billions in tax cuts.

But it is also not averse to spending taxpayers’ money on projects it deems “necessary”;

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NZ government shells out $11m on New York apartment for UN representative

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Flag referendum to cost $26M

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Government accused of wasting $11.5 million on wealthy Saudi farmer

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Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt

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Those four examples alone come to $78.5 million that could have been invested in rolling out a nationwide bowel screening programme plus pay for training of required specialist staff. Instead, the money has been spent on a luxury apartment; bribing a Saudi businessman; John Key’s vanity-project to change the flag; and acceding to a multi-national corporation’s demands for a cash subsidy.

This is worse than wasting tax-payer’s hard-earned money.

New Zealanders are dying whilst National fiddles and wastes time.

It is not the first time this has happened;

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Public hospital ills blamed on fund - Otago Daily Times - 20 august 1999

‘Public hospital ills blamed on fund’ – “Otago Daily Times” – 20 August 1999

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'Four forced off waiting list die',

‘Four forced off waiting list die’, “The Press”, 15 March 1999

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On 21 July, I wrote to Minister Coleman on the issue;

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Kia ora Dr Coleman,

I understand that you plan to “take a business case to Cabinet by the end of the year which will consider a potential staged roll out of a national bowel screening programme from early 2017”.

Considering that a Ministry of Health  pilot programme carried out by the Waitemata District Health Board since October 2011 has saved the lives of approximately two hundred and fiftyfive people who had been identified with a cancer, it seems unbelievable that New Zealanders will have to wait at least another year and a half before a screening programme is rolled out nationally.

You stated on 6 July this year that;

“The largest constraint to a national bowel screening programme is having the workforce to do the colonoscopies. There are a number of initiatives underway to address this.” (https://www.national.org.nz/news/news/media-releases/detail/2015/07/06/Consultation-on-next-steps-for-bowel-screening-programme)

Surely the training of skilled staff should have been started in 2011, when the pilot programme at Waitemata was initiated?

Waiting until the beginning of 2017 means that thousands of people around the country may be stricken by bowel cancer.

How many will contract the illness during the time it takes to extend the screening programme?

The Ministry of Health states;

More than 2800 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and more than 1200 die from the disease. By 2016 the number of new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed each year is projected to increase by 15% for men and 19% for women to 3302 (for all ages) (http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/cancer-programme/bowel-cancer-programme/about-bowel-cancer)

I urge you to re-visit this problem and to begin an immediate, strategic  roll-out throughout the country, so that screening can begin to take place.

It is simply unacceptable that 1,200 New Zealanders will perish this year; next year; and the year after, when an effective screening programme is available to save their lives.

If this government can spend $78.5 million on a Saudi farm; a Manhattan apartment; an aluminium smelter; and a flag referendum – then spending at least half that amount to save lives should not be beyond us.

2017 may be an election year – but we should not have to wait until then. Not when thousands of lives are at risk.

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One of Minister Coleman’s staff replied the following day;

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The Minister has asked Ministry of Health officials to advise him on the matters you have raised.  Please be aware that due to the large volume of correspondence we receive, a personal reply to your email may take some weeks.

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Time, evidently, is not of the essence here.

What is truly shameful is not that a National government Minister is prevaricating on this critical medical problem – but that the Minister in question is a qualified medical clinician.

He, more than any other politician, should know better.

Somewhere in this country, another person has just developed bowel cancer. And doesn’t know it.

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References

Ministry of Health: About bowel cancer

Ministry of Health: Bowel screening pilot

Comprehensive Care: Bowel Screening programme successes

Radio NZ:  Govt told to act now on bowel screening programme

Ministry of Health: Bowel Screening Pilot results – January 2012 to September 2014 – How many colonoscopies have been performed?

Ministry of Health: Bowel Screening Pilot results – Round 2 – January to December 2014 – Footnotes

Ministry of Health: DHB Location boundaries (map)

National Party: Consultation on next steps for bowel screening programme

Radio NZ: Govt told to act now on bowel screening programme

Radio NZ: Health fund loses $18 million

Fairfax media: NZ government shells out $11m on New York apartment for UN representative

TV3 News: Flag referendum to cost $26M

TVNZ News: Government accused of wasting $11.5 million on wealthy Saudi farmer

Fairfax media: Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt

National Party: Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman

Previous related blogposts

Unhealthy Health Cuts

Priorities?

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe?

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 22 July 2015.

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Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

11 January 2013 29 comments

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There was a time in New Zealand when health professionals like the legendary Doctor Smith created the first health system in the Hokianga without a single bureaucrat in sight. Until health management was corporatised under National 20 years ago the Coast had some outstanding no-nonsense characters in the public system but the intervening period has seen such people increasingly undermined by irrelevant bureaucracy and absurd political agendas.” – David Tranter, 9 January 2013

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After the spectacular cock-ups by Education Minister, Hekia Parata, it seems that the Health sector is next in line for the “National Treatment”.

Tony Ryall has demanded that the Health Budget be cut by $30 million this financial year (see:  Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery) Cuts to elective procedures that National’s spin-meisters “deemed to be of little benefit” are being planned – and details released to the media during the new season/holiday period when the public’s attention is focused on relaxation, barbecues, beaches, and “sinking a few coldies“.

Most of the mainstream media is also still “on holiday”, with minimal current affairs and investigative reporting being carried out by Radio NZ, TV3, and TV1. Only print media is reporting National’s covert cost-cutting programme – and even then, the Herald seems to be printing comments such as,

The National Health Committee has to find savings of $30 million this financial year from elective procedures deemed to be of little benefit.

The money would be used for smarter investment in other parts of the health system.

See: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

Note no quotation marks anywhere through those two paragraphs. The statements are presented as reported fact – not as government media  statement reflecting National Party policy.

This appears to be a re-run of National’s disastrous  “health reforms”  of the late 1990s,

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[National] Govt refuses extra ENT funding - ODT - 27 March 1997

Govt refuses extra ENT funding – ODT – 27 March 1997

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Call for funds  - ODT - 1 April 1997

Call for funds – ODT – 1 April 1997

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Wait for grommets a worry - ODT - 16 April 1997

Wait for grommets a worry – ODT – 16 April 1997

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Child health-care 'neglected' - ODT - 22 May 1997

Child health-care ‘neglected’ – ODT – 22 May 1997

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Sick children wait 2 years for surgery - ODT - 28 July 1997

Sick children wait 2 years for surgery – ODT – 28 July 1997

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Grommet 'blitz' clears backlog - ODT 19 November 1998

Grommet ‘blitz’ clears backlog – ODT 19 November 1998

Grommet 'blitz' clears backlog - ODT 19 November 1998

Grommet ‘blitz’ clears backlog – ODT 19 November 1998

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By the time Labour came to power in late 1999, the public Health system was a mess. National had gutted healthcare through funding cuts; increased management-bureacracy; closures; low salaries for front-line staff; and a slavish adherence to right wing dogma over the needs of communities and people.

The new incoming Labour-led government had much to re-build,

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$1.5b injection for health - 9 December 2001

$1.5b injection for health – 9 December 2001

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(When National supporters talk of Labour “wasting money” during their nine years in government – this is what they are actually referring to: the re-building of our public services.)

Note the weasel-words from Roger Sowry, National’s health spokesperson, in the above article,

Roger Sowry dismissed the announcement as a cynical, political move to hose down hotspots in health, including angst over waiting lists, DHB debts and health workers striking for higher  pay.

[…]

“It’s about politics. It’s not about the patient. It’s about saying we’ve got a problem with health, we can get a story out that there’s   a big lot of money coming down the barrel – it’s  about buying a comfort level for the next election.”

Roger Sowry should know about “hosing down hotspots in health, including angst over waiting lists, DHB debts and health workers striking for higher  pay” –  that is precisely the mess that National  left this country up until they were booted out in 1999.

The above stories are just a tiny few of the headlines from the 1990s.

Here are a few more that Mr Sowry might recognise – or should recognise. They all happened on his watch,

Claim many burned out by health sector reforms – 21 December 1996

Minister asked to halt job cuts  – 24 December 1996

Retiring GP pleased to escape growing bureacracy – 3 January 1997

$1m of health funds spent to date on rent for empty office space – 25 January 1997

More health changes tipped – 8 March 1997

Health reforms ‘harebrained’ – 15 March 1997

Rural abdication mockery of health system –  22 May 1997

Must pay for ‘wants’  – 19 July 1997

Cuts to hospital services expected – 8 August  1997

Move for sick to pay more  – 12 October 1997

English gives surgery pledge –  12 October 1997

Death The Northland Way – The Star – 15 October 1997

CHE announces cuts to public nursing hours – 15 October 1997

The Nation’s Health – 1 November 1997

‘Serious flaws’ in Govt’s health funding formula  – 31 January 1998

Privatising the public health system  – 2 February 1998

GP hits out at health reforms – 3 February 1998

Acute heart surgery list nearly 400  – 5 February 1998

Funding for Dunedin eye clinic slashed –  26 February 1998

Anger on heart op delay – 12 April 1998

Poorer patients put off doctors’ visits –  29 March 1998

Shipley, Bolger sorry for deaths of patients – 3 April 1998

Booking systems risky process, surgeon says  – 8 April 1998

Deaths hangs over boost in health funds – 9 April – 1998

Life on the waiting list uncertain – 9 April 1998

English may review waiting list funding –  11 April 1998

Health cuts spell doom for services – 30 April 1998

English agrees system flawed – 19 May 1998

Hospitals now owe $1.3 billion – 4 June 1998

100 drop off surgery lists  – 10 October 1998

Health sector needs stability, minister says – 28 January 1999

Four forced off waiting list die  – 15 March 1999

Patients ‘no better off’ – 29 March 1999

Widow says little improvement seem – 3 April 1999

Hospital waiting lists nudge 200,000 – 4 April 1999

Staff shortages could hit patient care, say nurses  – 4 May 1999

NZ heart attack victims likelier to die – 7 August 1999

Public hospital ills blamed on funding – 20 August 1999

Health spending rates poorly – 24 August 1999

Home Invasion – 24 June 2000

etc, etc…

That was the way we were in the 1990s; hospital budgets slashed resulting in chronic under-funding; growing privatisation of  healthcare; medical staff leaving New Zealand; bureacratic management growing; and people like Rau Williams, Colin Morrison, and others dying on waiting lists… all while a National-led government blundered on.

Things became so bad that even medical professions like the Royal Australasian College of Opthalmologists took to placing advertisements in newspapers, absolving  themselves of all blame and responsibility for the country’s chaotic and collapsing health system,

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Cataract surgery fact & fiction - advertisement - 6 October 1998

Cataract surgery fact & fiction – advertisement – 6 October 1998

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And while medical professions around the country distanced themselves from National’s non-stop bungling, others were jumping in, keen to exploit people’s fears and uncertainties for profit,

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Heartwatch Insurance Cover - advertisement - Otago Daily Times - 21 February 1998

Heartwatch Insurance Cover – advertisement – Otago Daily Times – 21 February 1998

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If you feel uncertain about the future…”

Talk about manipulating people’s fears.

What sort of society were we becoming that the callous exploitation of people’s   misery was somehow acceptable behaviour?! Was this the path that New Zealand had taken?

Or was our collective disgust finally being voiced with this statement,

I get a sense that the public is saying in quite a specific way, enough’s enough, we can’t take any more, you’ve got to stop, you’ve gone to far.” – Ian Powell,  Association for Salaried Medical Specialists, on Health cuts by the National-led government, 1 November 1997

The Minister of Health at the time, Bill English, and his colleagues – many of whom are still in Parliament (like Tony Ryall) – have much  to answer for.  For this was their legacy.

It now appears that they have not learned the lessons of that dark decade.

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Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

Full story

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Govt's proposed health cuts could affect children - Labour

Full story

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Doubt over savings from restricting ear treatment

Full story

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Oh dear lord, not again!!

It appears that National may be hell-bent of repeating it’s ghastly performance of the 1990s – especially the late ’90s, where people died as a result of the then-National-government’s ineptitude.

And didn’t we go through a similar exercise in reducing grommet operations for our children in 1997 and 1998?!?! Oh yes, we did.

The three Herald articles above repeat the same mantra over and over again,

The National Health Committee, which is responsible to Health Minister Tony Ryall, is trying to find $30 million of savings in the public health system for reinvestment in more effective or better-targeted treatments.

See: IBID

What  investment could possibly be “more effective or better-targeted “ than  treating glue ear in children???

What “investment” could be better than removing a potential barrier for children to learn at school – a barrier called deafness, caused by glue-ear?!

The so-called “National Health Committee” are not new to this kind of narrow, anti-social thinking. They’ve been around for quite a few years and were involved in National’s blundering healthcare “reforms” – policies which led to the needless deaths of Colin Morrison, Rau Williams, and others.

This media report in the “Sunday Star Times”, on 12 October 1997, illustrates the sort of repulsive “philosophy” which this nasty little ‘Quango’ comes up with, from time to time.

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Move for sick to pay more - Sunday Star Times - 12 October 1997

Source: Sunday Star Times

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Note the comments high-lighted in red,

Patient charges could be increased to pay for more health care, according to a draft report by the high-powered Government adviser the National Health Committee.

[…]

If user part-charges were high enough, the report said people’s ability and willingness to pay them would be a way of deciding which demands for publicly-funded services should be met.

Make no mistake. What these invisible, faceless, nameless bureacrats were suggesting to the then-National government was that raising “user part-charges” would deter certain classes of people from accessing the health service.

For example, if you were poor.  Or unemployed. Or a solo-parent. Or a pensioner. Perhaps Samoan or Maori. This was the power of the State being used to determine who lives and who dies – not on clinical grounds – but on your ability to pay.

The article goes on to state,

The report said funding for health and disability services should be directed at services which:

  • Showed good effectiveness or benefit with those standing to gain the most receiving services first.
  • Are the best value for public money.
  • Are a fair use of resources

[…]

It said people must be prepared to made trade-offs to achieve  a sensible mix of proven, cost-effective services.

I don’t know about the reader, but these remarks chill me to the bone. These are bean-counters giving advice to the Minister of Health; advice which measures outcomes according to “ the best value for public money” and if  “user part-charges were high enough…  people’s ability and willingness to pay them would be a way of deciding” who has access to life-giving medical care.

The only thing missing here is what do they advise we do with the corpses of people who did not have the  “ability and willingness to pay”  for “ high enough user part-charges“.

Perhaps ovens…? User-pays of course. With the bill for incineration being forwarded to next-of-kin…

Which leads us to the next question;

The “National Health Committee” – Who Are They?

Who are the so-called “National Health Committee” and what are their qualifications to be making recommendations on our healthcare system?

The Committee comprises of these kindly-looking folk,

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NHC members

Source

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Mrs Anne Kolbe

Chair

– specialist paediatric surgeon and an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland’s School of Medicine.

Dr Mark O’Carroll

– is a Respiratory Physician at Auckland City Hospital with subspecialty interests in Cystic Fibrosis, Lung Transplantation and Interventional Pulmonology.

Mr Craig Climo

– management.

Mr Ross Laidlaw

– retired corporate lawyer.

Ms Sharon Mariu

–  consultancy  in strategic and business development.

Mr Alex Price

– Chief Executive of Fertility Associates […] He holds a chemical engineering degree, an MBA from IMD, Switzerland and a graduate certificate in reproductive medicine from the University of New South Wales.

Source

Of the six committee members, only two have medical qualifications  as practititioners. The rest are ex-lawyers, bean-counters, pricey consultants, and business-types.

These are the bean-counters – faceless and nameless no more – who are now suggesting that savings in the country’s Health budget could be made by effectively stealing $30 million away from our children who need grommets for their ears.

The committee members – with their usual euphemisms – called the cost-cutting, “disinvestment“. I kid you not. See: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

So taking away a surgical procedure which gives our children a better chance at school – because they can actually hear what is being said in the classroom – is “disinvestment“?!

I call it naked selfishness and thieving from the vulnerable. So this is what the term “stealing candy from a baby” means.

I think every one of these “kindly-looking folk” should hang their heads in shame and resign their arses from this odious little quango. We have enough child poverty and poverty-related disease in this country without people like this lot, funded by us the taxpayer, adding to it with revolting policy-advice.

The New Year is just barely over a week old, and already we are reading stories of National’s intentions toward us and our children.

How many will suffer and/or die this time?

Addendum

Date:   Fri, 11 Jan 2013 at 1:45
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject:Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall?
To: “Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz” <Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz>
Bcc: Chris Laidlaw RNZ <sunday@radionz.co.nz>,
“campbelllive@tv3.co.nz” <campbelllive@tv3.co.nz>,
Dominion Post <editor@dompost.co.nz>,
Daily News <editor@dailynews.co.nz>, Daily Post <editor@dailypost.co.nz>,
Hutt News <editor@huttnews.co.nz>, Jim Mora <afternoons@radionz.co.nz>,
“joanna.norris@dompost.co.nz” <joanna.norris@dompost.co.nz>,
Kim Hill <saturday@radionz.co.nz>,
“kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz” <kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz>,
Listener <editor@listener.co.nz>,
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NZ Herald <editor@herald.co.nz>,
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“news@dompost.co.nz” <news@dompost.co.nz>,
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Otago Daily Times <odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz>,
“primenews@skytv.co.nz” <primenews@skytv.co.nz>, Q+A <Q+A@tvnz.co.nz>,
Southland Times <editor@stl.co.nz>, TVNZ News <news@tvnz.co.nz>,
The Press <letters@press.co.nz>,
The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>,
“tracy.watkins@fairfaxmedia.co.nz” <tracy.watkins@fairfaxmedia.co.nz>,
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Wairarapa Times-Age <editor@age.co.nz>,
“wellington.news@tv3.co.nz” <wellington.news@tv3.co.nz>

For the Health Reporter:

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall?

https://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/childrens-health-not-a-high-priority-for-health-minister-tony-ryall/

The “National Health Committee” recently recommended stripping $30 million from the Health budget by cutting back on grommet operations for our children. According to the NHC,  the insertion of grommets is the only elective procedure specifically targeted for “disinvestment”.

Question: Who are the “National Health Committee” ?

Question: What advice did they give to the National government in the late 1990s, which effectively would have meant high “part charges” for medical care, and more people dying needlessly?

Question: Did National try cutting back on grommet operations in the 1990s? What were the consequences?

Question: Why is the “National Health Committee” – an unelected quango that comprises of four business/consultant/lawyer-types and two actual medicos – giving advice to a government that might result in suffering and poor education outcomes for our children?

Question: why has a blogger demanded that the entire “National Health Committee” resign their arses out of that quango?

It’s surprising what one can uncover with a bit of digging around.

-Frank

Blogger

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Cartoonconsult

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References

Scoop: Tony Ryall – Reduction in State agencies confirmed

NZ Herald: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery

NZ Herald: Doubt over savings from restricting ear treatment

NZ Herald: Govt’s proposed health cuts could affect children – Labour

NZ Herald: The Hobbit: should we have paid?

Dominion Post:  Children need changes now – commissioner

National Health Committee

Previous related blogposts

Priorities?

Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key

Health Minister circumvents law to fulfill 2008 election bribe?

Johnny’s Report Card – National Standards Assessment – Compassion

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= fs =

10 August: Unhealthy Health Cuts

14 August 2012 9 comments

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In a repeat of health cuts in the late 1990s, National’s latest round of health cuts are starting to bite, and communities are fighting back.

See: Claim many burned out by health sector reforms (21 December 1996)

See: CHE job cuts impel nurses to eye Britain    (19 April 1997)

See: Cuts to hospital services expected (8 August 1997)

See: GP hits out at health reforms  (3 February 1998)

See: Widow says little improvement seem   (3 April 1999)

Despite assurances given after the May budget this year, National is cutting deep into the health budget, whilst raising user-pays charges. As Dear Leader said on 15 May,

“… low income earners should not be worried about the higher price of prescriptions because they too will benefit from improvements to other parts of the health service.”

See: PM says low income earners will benefit from health improvements

Tony Ryall added,

Despite tight financial times and what will be a zero Budget on 24 May, health will receive a big funding boost, which will come from savings within health and across the Government’s accounts.”

See: Prescription charges to increase

Well, we know how such assurances from National usually turn out.  Quite badly for us, unfortunately.

As is always the case, National’s “reforms” (aka, budget cuts)  impact on low-income families and individuals first – and  eventually creep up the socio-economic ladder  to affect the middle classes.  That is when we’ll see some real screaming from the public.

The cuts to Vote: Health have already started to affect our communities.  As District Health Boards are allocated either less money, or insufficient money to make up for inflation, local health initiatives begin to suffer.

One very clear example of cuts to local health programmes is  the Capital & Coast District Health Board (CCDHB) cutting funding for the Newtown Union Health Service,

  Coordinator Debbie Leyland says Newtown Union Health Service, which works with some of the most vulnerable people in the region, will lose $274,000 this year and expects to face more significant cuts in the year ahead.

“The DHB has indicated the 7.9% funding reduction to NUHS is required to help the DHB save $20 million this year. It has been indicated that the DHB needs to save an additional $20 million over the next two years which will have a serious impact on primary health care.”.

Leyland says the cuts will have serious impacts on patients who have no other option but to access low-cost primary health care, such as NUHS.”

See:  Scoop.co.nz: New community group protests at hospital against funding cuts

Since the Newtown Union Health Service serves mostly  low-income/fixed income families and individuals, these cuts to to the NUHS’s budget will go mostly unnoticed by the middle class. But these cuts will mimpact on those at the bottom of the socio-economic ‘pile’.

As Debbie Leyland said,

Newtown Union Health is a low cost primary health service that provides vital services to some of the most vulnerable people in Wellington. The funding cuts are dire for the service. Services such as the diabetes program are likely to be cut. There are nurses and doctors volunteering to work for free to keep services going. Wellington Hospital’s A&E will become increasingly cluttered and there will be less ability for accurate assessment of A&E patients due to the extra pressure.”

Leyland says the Government is ultimately responsible for the cuts, and says Health Minister Tony Ryall has refused to meet with community representatives.

“The Government is using a sharp razor to cut services that are vital to the lives of many vulnerable people. We would like to discuss the implications of these cuts with the Minister of Health Tony Ryall so he understands the impacts. Minister Ryall’s office is refusing to meet with us and has told us that he does not meet with members of the community. This shows he is deeply out of touch”.

See:  Scoop.co.nz: New community group protests at hospital against funding cuts

It is hardly surprising that Health Minister, Tony Ryall, refuses to meet with Ms Leyland. That would be… embarressing.

To show the community’s displeasure at cuts to their health service, a newly formed group, the United Community Action Newtown (UCAN) organised a public display of opposition, as well as meeting with the District Health Board at one of their many meetings.

The public health-cuts protest took place on the morning (8.45am, for about an hour) on 10 August.  Approximately 60 people from the Newtown community, and the Greater Wellington region,  took part,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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The picket was peaceful, subdued, and well-mannered. The lone policeman keeping watch may have  wondered what burglaries needed his attention, instead of wasting valuable police resources doing nothing except enjoying the brisk  morning air and sunshine,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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The banner of the newly formed United Community Action Newtown (UCAN) fluttered in the slight breeze of a cool Wellington morning,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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As the picket progressed, the Westpac Emergency helicopter took of from it’s landing-pad atop one of the Hospital buildings.

Whilst it’s refreshing to see this marvel of modern technology employed to save lives – another struggle to help people and save lives is carried out on in the streets below. Cuts to community-based healthcare can prove as harmful to human  beings as the critical injuries suffered by patients saved by this machine and it’s heroic crew,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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This gentleman had obviously put a great deal of thought into the content of his placard, and wanted to get a clear message across,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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UCAN organisor, Katie, addressing the crowd. She thanked Ken, the musician; the Maritime Union for their support; and the people who turned out to support the campaign to ratain full funding for community health services.

I later asked Katie a few questions,

Hi Katie, what do you hope to get out of this?

We just want to have a really strong and effective primary health system that cares for all people. Those particularly most vulnerable in our society, those who don’t have the money or the ability to travel to the doctor regularly. They need healthcare  that they can access because they’re the ones who’ve been  shown to  get sicker more often. So we need a health system that looks after them.”

Where do you see the health service going if they keep cutting and cutting?

Well of course, these clinics won’t be able to function. Their services have already been drastically reduced. They’ve already had to cut lots of  really good, effective services that they’ve provided in the past. So of course if the cuts keep happening they’re just will fall over and not be able to exist anymore.”

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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The crowd, listening to Katie,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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Labour MP and spokesperson for ACC, Andrew Little, being interviewed by TV3 (below) and another journalist (further below),

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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TV3 news team wandering through the crowd. Unless this blogger missed it, there was no coverage that evening of this event,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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A month ago, on  18 July, Whitirea journalist, Vomle Springford reported  a previous, similar event held by UCAN, where organisor Debbie Leyland said,

Outreach clinics, asthma education, midwifery, and sexual health services are likely to go if the funding cut is finalised.

Ms Leyland says if services like the Strathmore outreach clinic are lost, vulnerable people will be less likely to seek primary health care and end up in hospital.

“For example, if you live in Strathmore and are on a low wage, with a sick child, and English isn’t your first language, it’s more of a challenge to get to Newtown. It’s the little things, these services are vital, crucial stuff “. “

It was unhelpful for CCDHB communications advisor, Lindsay Davis, to then  suggest that  cuts did not mean  people would be unable to get the help they need,

If the Newtown service stops their outreach clinic to council flats, people will still be able to access health services, but they will have to come into the Newtown clinic.”

See: Newtown group wants answers over health cuts

For many people, especially immigrants, an Outreach Clinic that comes to their council flats is their only contact with health services.  This is notr about “laziness”, it’s about society being proactive before a medical condition worsens to a degree that requires more expensive intervention.

Dr Ben Gray, a senior lecturer in Primary Health Care and General Practice at the University of Otago Wellington and former NUHS doctor, told the board in his submission  the funding cut does not make sense to him because research clearly shows primary care is much more cost effective at improving health status than secondary care.

“They (funding cuts) will lead to increased costs for the hospital in the way of increased emergency department visits, higher hospital admission rates and the risk of collapse of our obstetric (midwifery) service”. “

See: Newtown group wants answers over health cuts

Attending to an outbreak of disease at the start is more financially sensible than waiting for infection to spread, thereby compounding  the problem.

It is also the right thing to do in any fair-minded  society .

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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A month later, things have not gotten better, and UCAN is still having to deliver it’s message to the CCDHB that funding cuts to the NUHS will impace unfairly on an already disadvantaged, low-income community,

UCAN Coordinator Debbie Leyland says Newtown Union Health Service, which works with some of the most vulnerable people in the region, will lose $274,000 this year and expects to face more significant cuts in the year ahead.

“The DHB has indicated the 7.9% funding reduction to NUHS is required to help the DHB save $20 million this year. It has been indicated that the DHB needs to save an additional $20 million over the next two years which will have a serious impact on primary health care.”.

Leyland says the cuts will have serious impacts on patients who have no other option but to access low-cost primary health care, such as NUHS.

“Newtown Union Health is a low cost primary health service that provides vital services to some of the most vulnerable people in Wellington. The funding cuts are dire for the service. Services such as the diabetes program are likely to be cut. There are nurses and doctors volunteering to work for free to keep services going. Wellington Hospital’s A&E will become increasingly cluttered and there will be less ability for accurate assessment of A&E patients due to the extra pressure.”

Leyland says the Government is ultimately responsible for the cuts, and says Health Minister Tony Ryall has refused to meet with community representatives.

“The Government is using a sharp razor to cut services that are vital to the lives of many vulnerable people. We would like to discuss the implications of these cuts with the Minister of Health Tony Ryall so he understands the impacts. Minister Ryall’s office is refusing to meet with us and has told us that he does not meet with members of the community. This shows he is deeply out of touch”.”

Ms Leyland  explained the obvious end-conclusion to health budget cuts,

” Several dollars are saved in other parts of the health system for every one dollar put into primary health care. These cuts will cost tax payers millions in the long run. The Government should be putting a fence at the top of the cliff, not simply relying on an ambulance at the bottom. “

Scoop: New community group protests at hospital against funding cuts

This is fairly basic, common-sense, stuff.

The only reason that a National health-minister would disregard basic common sense and long-term health outcomes is for short-term accounting purposes.  After two tax cuts and various subsidies for businesses, National finds itself with a massive budget deficit.

See: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

See: Budget deficit keeps getting worse

Unfortunately, we are the ones who end up paying for National’s mistakes.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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Musician, Ken, entertained the crowd with a steady selection of R&B and other fine music,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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Two representatives from the Service & Food Workers Union. Cuts to healthcare don’t just impact on the services that the community can access – but also to jobs and workers’ pay and conditions.

As services are wound back; jobs are cut; unemployment grows; serious medical conditions eventually demand more expensive medical interventions, it is apparent that budget cuts are a false economy.  (But try telling that to bean-counters in the National Party.)

Budget cuts affect every aspect of society and the economy.

Unions aren’t just advocating on behalf of their members – they are looking out for society as a whole.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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Representatives of the NZ Maritime Union were thanked for supporting the picket, and assisting with the ‘UCAN’ t-shirts for the organisers,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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This woman stood by the roadside – her placards eliciting a noisy barrage of supportive toots from passing traffic,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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Robin, a member of the Newtown Union Health Service. He was emphatic in his belief that funding should not be cut,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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Retired trade unionist, Pat Bolster, gave his support to  community anger at cutbacks,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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Debbie Leyland, co-founder of UCAN, then took the microphone to address the gathering. A little later, I chatted with Debbie and asked her about her meeting with the Board,

We went to see the members of the district health board, Mary Bonner, and the other members. We went to discuss the cuts in the Union health service funding which is over a quarter of a million dollars.

I presented them with a game of ‘Jenga’ which I explained is our model of  Newtown Union health.  Because if you start taking blocks away , Newtown Union [Health Service]  will fall. We asked them to respond with their plan of health cuts and how they’re going to cope. Where are the people that are going to be affected by these health cuts going to go?

They said to me that they’d take on board what we’ve said and they will have a robust discussion behind their closed doors in that part of the meeting.  

I asked for transparency and open discussion on the public arena and that was denied.  So I then said that we had people wanting answers. They said they would have a robust discussion and they would come back to us in a week. “

I asked Debbie Leyland if  the CCDHB gave any indication why they were cutting the budget?

Because Tony Ryall has ordered $129 million [cut] out of the Health budget.  A lot of that is to come out of primary healthcare. There’s $40 million this year coming out, $40 million next year.

But the thing is, healthcuts don’t heal people. They cost lots of money at the end of the road. For every dollar, you put in primary healthcare, you save several [dollars] in the secondary, which is going to the hospitals. So it’s a financial nonsense.”

With these healthcuts the government has promised not to cut front line services, but it almost seems inevitable that they will be, I suggested.

Ms Leyland replied,

The funding’s already been cut. They’re not renewing  contracts like the diabetes contracts; midwives;  Strathmore mobile clinic, is probably going to go. They are cutting it. They said that this was a one-off cut last year, and here they are back again for another cut.

If they come back in the next year [with another cut] I doubt whether  the Newtown Union [Health Service] will ever be opened. “

This almost seems like a re-run of the 1990s health cuts?

Well doesn’t it? And what’s very ironic about that statement is that that was the reason why Newtown union Health Service was set up in the first place/. It was set up by the Unions to provide honest, affordable healthcare for their members and for the most vulnerable in the community. So it is quite ironic that we find outselves here, and also what’s more ironic is today is the same day that the PHO building across the road was opened five years ago. “

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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Rev. Richard Noble, one of the group of a dozen people,  making a representation to the CCDHB opposing damaging  cuts to  community healthcare. He was joined by Dr Ben Gray and Prof Don Matheson.

Rev Noble, standing alongside another member of the picket,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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Two local Newtown residents, Ariana and Bronwyn.  Browyn expressed her disgust at having “a posh cafe with $6 sandwiches within the hospital” complex, and suggested  that “maybe we need a soup kitchen instead?”

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

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This blogger also had an opportunity to discuss the issue with  Linda Hobman, UCAN chairperson and a member of the Wellington City Council Accessibility Advisory Committee. I started by asking Ms Hobman what happened when she appeared before the CCDHB.

Ms Hobman replied,

We did public participation. We did that at the June Board meeting, and they asked the officers to do a report, which is on the Agenda today but it’s in “Public Excluded”. So we gave public participation again today asking them to reconsider the cuts…

… They [said they] would let us know in a week. I’m a bit confused as to why they have to wait a week to let us know the decision, if they make the decision today.”

Ms Hobman then confirmed that the Board had cut the NUHS funding by $274,000. I asked Ms Hobman what services might be cut with their  funding slashed.  She replied,

“Well that is the decision that the Newtown Union have to make. The reality is that services will be cut. That 7.8% of the budget, and so services will be cut.”

Ms Hobson continued, thather group pointed out to the CCDHB,

We just really emphasised the point that we’re dealing with a lot people enrolled at the  Newtown [Union Service]  that have high and complex needs. We have a high proportion of refugees.

We have a high proportion of mental health consumers.

And many of the mental health consumers would have traditonally been treated at secondary, that’s in hospital, but because  Newtown Union works the way it does , these people can be living in the community and receiving the care they need. The reality is  we won’t be able to take on any new patients.”

I suggested to Ms Hobman that if patients were going to receive more  secondary [hospital in-patient] care, that this would impact on the hospital itself.

Ms Hobman replied,

Yes absolutely. But they didn’t respond, they just listened.

It’s very important that people take a stand… The reality is it’s our  most vulnerable people that are being affected by the health cuts. And it’s  our most vulnerable people in New Zealand that this government doesn’t give a darn about.”

Ms Hobman then stated she would be returning to the Board meeting whilst it was still in open public-mode.

The protest picket disbanded peacefully, and without incident, a short time later.

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Addendum

To gather more information  relating to funding for the NUHS, I have emailed a request to CCDHB CEO, Mary Bonner, seeking  clarification on budgetary  matters. They responded,

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This blogger will keep you posted on this issue.

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Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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Additional

CCDHB Annual Report: 2009

CCDHB Annual Report: 2010

CCDHB Annual Report: 2011

NZ Herald: Health cuts costly in long term, warns union

NZ Herald: Divided Auckland: Overcrowding a hotbed for infections

NZ Herald: Pressure leads to health cut predictions

Fairfax Media: Whooping cough is rampant in capital

Fairfax Media: Prescription charges to increase

Radio NZ: PM says low income earners will benefit from health improvements

Fairfax Media: Maori children suffer health treatment inequalities: study

Scoop: New community group protests at hospital against funding cuts

Newswire: Newtown group wants answers over health cuts

Facebook: United Community Action Newtown

Media coverage

NZ Herald: Protest against cuts to health funds

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