We believe that when New Zealanders need healthcare, they deserve to have it delivered in a safe and healthy environment. Patients and staff shouldn’t have to worry about mould or rot in hospital walls – but that was the reality when Labour came into Government in 2017. We inherited a health system under serious strain, following years of neglect and underinvestment by National.
Over the past three years, we’ve worked hard to turn this around to ensure more New Zealanders can get quality care, when and where they need it – and we’ve made good progress.
We started with our hospitals. Since coming into Government, we’ve launched a massive rebuild programme to improve our hospitals and health infrastructure. This has included funding purpose-built mental health and addiction facilities around the country, building new hospitals in Dunedin and on the West Coast, and developing modern, specialised units for procedures like cancer treatment. We have also initiated remedial work in many hospitals including Middlemore, Auckland City Hospital and Starship to make them fit for purpose.
Fixing our run-down hospitals won’t only help to keep Kiwis safe and healthy, it will also support our economic recovery. Through initiatives like our New Zealand Upgrade Programme, we’re funding shovel-ready hospital rebuilds and redevelopments that will create jobs right around the country and help to keep our economy moving.
Of course, health is about more than just hospitals. Care starts in the community, which is why we’ve also worked hard to make it easier for Kiwis to get treated closer to home. We’ve already made doctor’s visits cheaper for more than half a million people, boosted funding for PHARMAC so more New Zealanders can access more publicly-funded medicine, and expanded the Nurses in Schools programme.
We also want to ensure that healthcare isn’t a postcode lottery, because no matter where you live, you should be able to access quality care. That’s why we’ve invested in regional health facilities around the country, and funded 12 state-of-the-art linear accelerators for radiation treatment, ensuring improved treatment and fairer access to cancer care in our regions. We’ve also rolled out the National Bowel Screening Programme to more areas, helping more people get treatment earlier.
Taking mental health seriously has been a priority for Labour, and we’ve made a good start on transforming New Zealand’s mental health system. We’ve launched a new frontline mental health service, which will mean people can access dedicated mental health support while visiting their GP. We’ve established the Suicide Prevention Office and invested in increased suicide prevention services, to ensure people can get support when they need it most. And to support the next generation, we’ve rolled out mental health support in all Canterbury and Kaikōura primary and intermediate schools, and launched Piki, a free mental health service for young people.
COVID-19 has shown us just how important a strong and well-funded healthcare system is. Years of neglect will take time to fix, but we’ve made a good start. There’s still more to do, but our five-point recovery plan will ensure that while creating jobs and growing our economy, we can also invest in our vital services like health and build back better.
You can read more about Labour’s plan for health here.