National is choosing to put our health at risk

New Zealanders need and deserve a strong public health system. Throughout the country, we need to ensure hospitals, clinics and community providers have the resources needed to provide the best level of care.

Rather than prioritising this in Budget '24, the National Government has decided to allocate barely enough healthcare funding to keep the lights on. What’s worse, analysis released by NZCTU shows that when adjusted for inflation and population growth, these funding figures drop even further. 

You’ll pay more to visit a doctor because government funding for GPs isn’t keeping up with inflation. Medicines will also be more expensive because the National Government has scaled back Labour’s free prescription initiative.

National’s Budget is full of broken health promises. As well as leaving cancer patients anxiously waiting to find out about treatment funding, they’ve backtracked on a raft of other campaign promises. National has dialled back their commitment to increase medical school placements by 50, providing little for our stretched workforce. They also promised to deliver a new medical school, but this went unfunded. National promised to increase the number of doctors specialising in psychiatry, and double the number of trainee psychologists, but have no plan to achieve this.

National promised pay parity for nurses, and to support nurses and midwives with student loan repayments, but this is now up in the air. Meanwhile, they’re unwinding progress on initiatives to reduce the gender pay gap and taking away sick leave from part-time workers, which will impact those in our healthcare sector.

Back-office roles are being cut, meaning clinicians have less time to care for patients because they’re doing admin. Some frontline vacancies are going unfilled or are being disestablished. The New Zealand Nurses Organisation is concerned that the full number of nursing students won’t be recruited to public hospitals this year, forcing locally trained nurses to seek opportunities overseas. This will pile pressure onto already stretched healthcare workers and increase wait times.

Fixing our health system is a complex job, but National is choosing to ignore good scientific advice about how to do it. If health was genuinely a priority, why would National repeal our world-leading anti-smoking laws, leaving a new generation vulnerable to the effects of tobacco? Why would they hurry to disestablish Te Aka Whai Ora, our Māori Health Authority, which was improving health outcomes for Māori? The Government also ignored advice about the risks of making the school lunch programme less nutritious. Together, these irresponsible choices will continue to increase pressure on our health system.

In Government, Labour delivered historic increases in pay for nurses and made both doctor’s visits and prescriptions more affordable. Labour also doubled minimum sick leave to protect workers and businesses and boosted funding for ambulances and paramedics.

The Government needs to commit to real solutions and meaningful investment in our healthcare system and its workers. When it comes to their health and wellbeing, New Zealanders deserve world-class care, not more broken promises.

Read more: Your top concerns about the Budget

Watch: Everything wrong with National's Budget in 60 seconds

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