29 Mar 2018

NZ health system 'won't be fixed in one term'

From Checkpoint, 6:08 pm on 29 March 2018

New Zealand’s health system has been so badly neglected by the previous government it needs about $14 billion invested in infrastructure in the next 10 years, Health Minister David Clark says.

Labour pledged $8b during its election campaign, and Dr Clark said that figure still stood, even though it’s “not going to be enough”.

The $8b is for extra funding for health over four years, but it has become clear that $14b is needed just for infrastructure over the next 10 years.

“These are ropey numbers, so please take them in that context, but the best numbers we have at this stage is it might be as much as $14b over the next 10 years that is required in infrastructure spending. That is no small sum,” he told Checkpoint with John Campbell.

“We’ve got nearly a decade of neglect. You can’t fix that all in one budget. I doubt we’ll be able to fix it all in one term.”

His comments follow revelations by three district health boards, which have told Checkpoint they need a total of $4.3b in capital expenditure over the next 10 years.

Counties Manukau District Health Board Acting CEO Gloria Johnson said her dhb had not requested funding in recent years to fix their old, rotting and asbestos-ridden buildings because of pressure from the previous government to stay in surplus. 

Dr Clark said he was shocked to find there was no asset management plan in place for New Zealand’s health system, and one needed to be established.

“These are critical to New Zealand’s future, these projects, they are about making sure we have a health system that delivers services to the public in a reliable way that New Zealanders would expect and deserve. They are a priority.”

Public health purposefully neglected – Health Minister

The previous government squeezed the public health sector to promote the private health industry, Dr Clark said.

“They were concerned about private profit for that health industry so it could grow, and one way of achieving that would by squeezing the public delivery of health services.

“That’s not our philosophy so we will start to address that backlog. I’ve inherited the problem, but I’m determined to deal with that and lay out a path over time to make sure we rebuild the public capability in our health sector because New Zealand needs it.”