Little to cheer those wanting adequate new hospital

Robin Gauld. Photo: ODT files
Robin Gauld. Photo: ODT files
Those focused on an adequate Dunedin hospital rebuild will not find much reassurance in the Budget.

Some $2.6 billion has been invested in health over the next two years, to respond to cost and wage pressures. When placed in the context of an about $20 billion pre-existing annual allocation, the funding is below inflation.

There is money for 500 new nurses, and to deliver on a promise that those awaiting elective procedures will be seen within 12 months. Unfortunately, orthopaedics is exempt from this, and this is an area that affects many suffering people without the means to pay for treatment.

Cynically, some might say the new allocation of $864 million to develop the new Ministry for Disabled People will help those who become so hobbled from an inability to access orthopaedics.

The nursing funding will not resolve longstanding pay differences between public hospital and primary care nurses.

The elective targets are to be supported by $118 million dedicated to process improvements aimed at freeing up hospital beds, a longstanding challenge.

A very important $618 million initiative has been taken to abolish patient prescription charges, with the Budget noting University of Otago research has prompted this.

Patients often do not fill prescriptions because of the payment barrier.

The next step here has to be eradicating the initial payment to see a GP, incongruous when public hospitals are free, and known to deter around 20% from seeking care.

This is one for next year’s Budget.

More than $700 million from the broader Budget is allocated to healthy homes and free school lunches. Thinking broadly about public health, such contributions will help relieve downstream pressure on our health services and system.

• Robin Gauld is a professor in the Dunedin School of Medicine and Otago Business School, and Co-Director, Centre for Health Systems and Technology, University of Otago