28 Sep 2005

Cooks health minister criticised over referrals to NZ

5:18 pm on 28 September 2005

The health minister in the Cook Islands is being criticised for approving too many patients to be sent for medical treatment in New Zealand.

An audit of three years' worth of special government payments has revealed that heads of departments, and hospital staff are more likely to get themselves and family members repeatedly sent to New Zealand.

The audit office says in at least one case the patients obtained more treatment in New Zealand than they were entitled to.

A private doctor, Terepaii Uka, says he's willing to help the government comply with a key audit recommendation and serve as an independent member of the medical referrals committee.

Dr Uka says the health of the patient is the foremost concern.

"I mean if the patient is indicated for referral, I think the patient should be referred to New Zealand for further management, whether the patient is white, black, red or yellow."