Minister makes meagre effort to fix big problem

Today’s announcement by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman that Budget 2015 will include $98 million for elective surgery over three to four years should be seen for what it is – a drop in the bucket in an effort to appease thousands of concerned New Zealanders, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says.

“This will be greeted by the sector with an awful sense of déjà vu. It is a re-announcement with a little gift wrapping.

“The Minister’s predecessor Tony Ryall, using exactly the same words as Mr Coleman – ‘elective surgery makes a real difference to patients and their families’ – announced $48 million of this funding in last year’s budget.

“Jonathan Coleman has been under attack from all sides about the increasing numbers of Kiwis being rejected for a first consultation with a specialist or being kept out of operating theatres because they don’t meet pain thresholds.

“At the same time he has repeatedly denied there’s a problem.

“Now he thinks he’s fixing it with $50 million over three years. Do the maths – that’s on average $833,000 per year for each of the 20 district health boards.

“We welcome any moves to help in this area, but to steal a line from members of Hastings Grey Power: more honesty and fewer weasel words please Mr Coleman.”