The biggest health challenge of the past year has, of course, been the COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand’s response to this global crisis has been world-leading. We’ve put the health of New Zealanders first and avoided the lengthy lockdowns seen in other countries. The Government’s significant investment in this response has saved lives. Our economy is stronger and our population safer because of the decision to go hard and go early – and our ability to follow through on that promise.
But this pioneering COVID response sits alongside a raft of ambitious, far-reaching initiatives to update Aotearoa’s health infrastructure, support doctors and nurses, and ensure Kiwis greater access to healthcare. We’re proud of our record, and we hope these steps have helped you and your whānau toward better care and better health. There’s always more to do, but these efforts have created a firm foundation on which to build back better, for a healthier Aotearoa.
Building better health facilities
We’ve kicked off a massive rebuild campaign to ensure New Zealand’s health infrastructure is fit for purpose.
The Government has so far invested an extra $3.5 billion in updating our hospitals and health infrastructure, delivering modern, functional facilities to support frontline health workers and improve patient outcomes and experience.
Preliminary work has begun on the Dunedin Hospital redevelopment – set to be the single biggest hospital build in New Zealand history – and pre-construction activity is underway on the new wing of Taranaki Base Hospital. A purpose-built health facility in Westport is in the works, and Christchurch Hospital’s new Acute Services Building is up and running, with the next stage of the campus redevelopment programme confirmed. The upcoming phase of the Bay of Islands Hospital redevelopment will make the Kawakawa facility more functional, major funding has gone towards resolving long-standing issues at Middlemore Hospital, and North Shore Hospital will benefit from 120 new elective surgery beds and four new operating theatres.
Specialised units have been developed in healthcare centres across the country. These include new endoscopy and cardiac care facilities at Whangārei Hospital and a new stroke and rehabilitation unit at Auckland City Hospital.
This work to update and future-proof infrastructure improves the quality of and access to healthcare while also contributing to economic recovery and job creation.
We’re deeply committed to ensuring all New Zealanders have equal access to healthcare.
Investment in our health system has been designed to enhance health delivery across the country, promoting strong regional health capacity and a more even spread of services. Last term a historic injection of funding – an extra $9.02 billion – for district health boards (DHBs) accounted for population growth and boosted the capacity of regional administration.
We’ve established targeted action plans – Whakamaua and Ola Manuia – to shape and drive our commitment to the health of Māori and Pacific people in Aotearoa. With insights and leadership from these communities, we’ve identified key areas of focus and committed to addressing discrepancies in healthcare delivery.
In seeking to ensure equitable, accessible healthcare, we’ve also increased disability support funding by more than $800 million – the largest ever funding boost for disability support services. Pilots to boost disability support systems are ongoing in Waikato and Christchurch, while the trial of a new system to help people with disabilities to access supports is under way in Mid-Central.
We’re working to guarantee that healthcare is always within reach.
We’ve made it easier for Kiwis to physically get to hospital, with funding for both air and land ambulances. And we’ve lifted financial barriers to accessing primary healthcare, making doctor’s visits cheaper for almost 600,000 people.
Now, nearly all Community Services Card holders can visit their doctor for no more than $18.50, while visits to the GP are free nationwide for patients under 14 years of age.
We’ve also expanded the nurses in schools programme, ensuring that students have rapid access to healthcare.
Cheaper medication and supply ensured
We’re funding PHARMAC to secure publicly supported medication for Kiwis who need it.
Last term, PHARMAC received a 20% boost to its medicines budget – taking it to $1.045 billion per year – in order to ensure the supply of key medications. This funding is cushioning the impact of any COVID-related supply disruptions, which has enabled PHARMAC to function effectively throughout the pandemic.
PHARMAC will soon be subject to an independent review to assess how well it performs against current objectives and whether these objectives closely link to improved health outcomes – in line with the Government’s commitment to transparency and responsiveness.
A coordinated cancer offensive
We’re taking serious steps to crack down on cancer, New Zealand’s single biggest cause of death.
A cancer action plan to improve outcomes for all cancer patients has been implemented, with a focus on ensuring equitable outcomes, fewer cancer cases, and better cancer survival rates.
A new Cancer Control Agency, Te Aho o Te Kahu, was established in 2019 to provide national leadership for, and oversight of, cancer control in Aotearoa.
Funding for 12 new linear accelerators used in radiation therapy has been secured. This will improve access to quality cancer treatment in Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, and Christchurch – and, for the first time, put machines in Northland, Taranaki, and Hawke’s Bay.
Meanwhile, the National Bowel Screening Programme – which seeks to detect and treat bowel cancer early – has been rolled out to 16 DHBs, with recent investments of around $103 million. Its expansion to the last few DHBs is set to be completed by the end of the year.
Investment in doctors and nurses
We’re backing our workers on the frontlines and bolstering their ranks.
Aotearoa’s healthcare system is only as strong as our support for the dedicated doctors, nurses and caregivers who deliver its services.
Improved funding is helping to rebuild our DHB workforce, with more than 3,000 nurses, 800 doctors, and 1,200 allied health professionals newly employed since Labour took office. The number of certified midwives has also increased.
All of these steps have been accompanied by a push toward a health approach to drug use and robust support for addiction services. Mental health services, too, have been a firm priority – you can see the strides we’ve taken on this important issue here.
COVID-19 – both in Aotearoa and overseas – has demonstrated how crucial a well-funded, responsive healthcare system is. After years of neglect for our health system under the previous administration, this Government has worked hard to combat disrepair and deliver a robust health sector that supports our frontline workers and works to optimise the health of all New Zealanders.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, and all the work still to do, we’re well on our way to developing a healthcare system we can all be proud of.
See here for the next major steps we're taking to provide equitable health access and outcomes to all New Zealanders.
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