12 May 2020

Doctors welcome $4bn DHB funding boost but say more is needed

7:07 pm on 12 May 2020

Doctors are welcoming a $4.3 billion cash injection for district health boards but say it will take a lot more to fill the huge hole the health system has been working in.

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Photo: Ministry of Health / Supplied

Most of the funding in the pre-budget announcements is for the day to day running of district health boards, and $282.5 million of it has been allocated for clearing backlogs because of Covid-19 in surgery, specialist appointments and scans.

Counties Manukau DHB surgeon Andrew Connolly said the funding was very welcome as doctors looked at how to catch up.

"It's a huge challenge but one we certainly can handle. It is very complex because a fair proportion of patients were not seen in the lockdown and therefore their priority might have increased," he said.

Hospitals would likely have to hold weekend or evening clinics and would probably use private hospitals, all of which cost money, he said.

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The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, which represents senior doctors and dentists, said the $3.9 billion for the DHBs was a great start - but more was needed.

Its executive director, Sarah Dalton, said it was money health workers had been crying out for for years, but it was only a start.

"The effects of that underinvestment have been playing out in decaying buildings, worsening waiting lists and access to healthcare, along with staffing shortages and burnt out workforces."

Today's announcement did not cover buildings and infrastructures but Health Minister David Clark suggested there may be more to come.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said his budget this year would be very different than planned because of the costs - and changes to the economy - caused by Covid-19.

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson speaking at the briefing for a Covid-19 daily update on 17 April, 2020.

Grant Robertson. Photo: Pool / NZME

Health was getting more than it would have, he said.

Covid-19 had shown that having a strong health system was critical for the wellbeing of New Zealanders, he said.

"There are some things you put on ice, but you don't put on ice the health care of New Zealanders," he said.

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