Health cuts start with kids' hearing

Health Minister Tony Ryall’s proposed cuts to funding for children’s grommets will see more kids sitting in class unable to listen and learn says Labour’s Health spokesperson Maryan Street.

Reports suggest the Minister is looking to cut $30 million from common surgical procedures including ‘deinvestment’ in the insertion of children’s grommets.

“There is no mention of how this funding will be redirected, except to say that the cuts will be used for ‘smarter investment in other parts of the health system’.

“Our children don’t need any further barriers to learning and development. The insertion of grommets is a critical and very brief operation, usually on young children whose poor hearing, due to persistent ear infections, limits learning and development.

“Reducing the number of grommet operations for children without a direct investment in preventative measures is a false economy. We don’t want to wait until children are really hard of hearing before intervening.

“Glue ear needs to be targeted, not ignored. While Labour supports easing up elective surgical targets - which are currently producing distortions within the health system – any money saved must be invested into preventative measures to reduce the requirement for surgical intervention later on.

“The National Health Committee, tasked with administering the cuts, is yet to list other affected procedures.

“Ultimately, the Minister drives and signs off on cuts. Surely it would be wise to look at the bigger picture before limiting specific procedures.

“Tony Ryall has constantly made a big deal of achieving more elective surgical procedures than ever before, so to cut $30 million in this area seems counterintuitive.

“The Minister must front foot any decision and not hide behind the guise of a committee process,” Maryan Street says.