Health at forefront of Labour policy

Our health system continues to be front of mind for everyone in Dunedin and around New Zealand, with ongoing strain on hard-working staff, long waiting lists and a redesign of our national health system.

Labour continues the long, hard process of rebuilding our health system which had been ground down slowly by National.

We’ve added 20% more doctors and nurses to the workforce in the past five years, and we know more are needed — there are 800 new nurses in the last year alone, and 1000 more each year in the years to come.

We’ve also expanded medical student places at Otago and Auckland which will be ready to go far more quickly than by building a new medical school at Waikato.

We’ve announced pay equity for nurses and increased pay for nurses more in the past three years than the National government did in nine.

We value nurses and want to keep them in New Zealand.

It’s in this context I view National’s pledge to ‘‘bring back cut beds, theatres and a PET scanner’’ to the New Dunedin hospital, as hollow electioneering, because its track record is to promise big and deliver small.

National has promised to bring back cut beds — but we haven’t cut beds.

Instead, the government has announced that 12 beds will be shelled pending a study on how best to use them.

The mental health inpatient beds are under active consideration, and we expect to announce the outcome before the election.

We’re taking our time to get it right, because we’ve seen what happens when you don’t.

Another reason is that the pledge to install a second PET scanner from day one would represent an unarguable waste of taxpayer money, something that National preaches about endlessly.

National would need to explain to the rest of the country why Dunedin should have two PET scanners when other main centres have one, or none.

Only Auckland has two, servicing over 1.7 million people, and still with some spare capacity.

The government is preparing a space for a second PET scanner in our new hospital so that, as demand for it increases, it can one day be deftly slotted in place.

Our plan with surgical theatres has been to focus on how many operations you can do, and not how many theatres you have.

We have listened to the local leaders about the best model and the design is set.

More changes would mean a delay to the hospital.

Labour’s track record on health is clear.

We invest in staff pay, increasing staff numbers, investing in infrastructure and eliminating the post-code lottery.

National’s track record on health is clear also.

The choice couldn’t be more stark.