Health Ministry announces job cuts

One hundred and thirty jobs may be lost at the Health Ministry, Director-General of Health Stephen McKernan said today.

The announcement comes the same day the Government released updated figures showing nearly 1500 jobs had gone across the state sector.

The ministry is consulting staff about its restructure proposal designed to support the changes to the health system that began in October last year.

The proposal recommended reducing the number of full-time positions within the ministry to 1390 by the end of this financial year and 1290 by July 2011.

The ministry currently has around 1420 full-time equivalent staff.

"While the proposal would change some roles and disestablish a number of positions, exact numbers will not be known until all ministry staff have had the opportunity to provide feedback and the structure is finalised around mid- to late-May,'' Mr McKernan said.

"The priority for the ministry now is managing the consultation process and supporting staff who are potentially affected by the proposed changes.''

In October last year, Health Minister Tony Ryall said as many as 500 jobs could go across the ministry and district health boards (DHBs).

A National Health Board (NHB) is to be established within the ministry, overseeing IT, payroll, procurement and logistics. Mr Ryall said reducing duplication of those services across the 21 DHBs could save hundreds of millions.

Meanwhile, Mr Ryall, who is also State Services Minister, today released final figures for last year showing a drop in the number of people working in Government administration.

National campaigned on dealing with what it said was a bloated bureaucracy and reining in government spending and set a cap of 38,859 positions. That was now down to 37,379.

Mr Ryall said Labour let the bureaucracy run out of control and in nine years the public service grew by 50 percent.

Full-time public servant positions had reduced by 1480 but front-line workers, who were not included in the cap, had increased by 540.

The figures were for the 2009 year and were slightly up on figures released in September showing full-time public servant positions had reduced 1402 while front-line positions increased by 173.

New positions were in Child, Youth and Family, Work and Income and probation and psychological services.

"We have halted the rampant growth in the total public service over the last nine years of the previous government - averaging 5 percent or around 1800 full-time people per year.''

Mr Ryall said had Labour been in Government numbers would have increased.

"As many government departments adjust to no or little extra funding over the next few years, we would expect to see further reductions in these staffing numbers. However this is part of an on-going focus on value for money and future proofing services.''

Labour Party state services spokesman Grant Robertson said the cap figures were a public relations exercise.

"They created a definition of core government administration and excluded some departments because they knew those departments were going to grow,'' he said.

"I think National has made a great play of wanting to make creation of jobs and protection of jobs a priority yet they have personally overseen the loss of nearly 1500 jobs. They are real people, with families, and they have been suffering.''

Mr Robertson disagreed the service would have grown under Labour.

"No one would have expected a huge growth in the public sector during a recession but what we've seen here is much more than that it's a reversal of the government's promise to cap not cut the public sector and you can't have these kinds of cuts without them undermining the services that New Zealanders get.''

He said there was no definition of what the Government meant by frontline services.

"If they are serious about moving resources to the frontline why have we seen cuts in the year to biosecurity to Child, Youth and Family. There's nothing more important than protecting our borders and protecting our children.''




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