Verve Article - August 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Making real progress on healthcare

Winter brings its usual colds, sniffles and other maladies.  For large families, doctor’s bills add up and that can lead some to hold off visiting the doctor when they should.  In the worst circumstances, easily manageable problems can become difficult to manage.

Since coming into government in 2008, National has prioritised funding to enable children aged under six to have access to free doctors’ visits, day and night, seven days a week.

It was part of a wider effort to invest in preventative healthcare.  In the same way we’ve focused on massively improving immunisation rates for children.  More than 94% of 8-month-olds are fully immunised. 

Similarly, 90,000 school children in at-risk parts of the country have been targeted in a $65 million Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme.  

We’ve been making this extra investment in healthcare at a time when many developed countries around the world have been freezing, or even reducing, health funding.  

And this winter, I’m particularly pleased that because of continued careful management of the Government’s finances we’ve been able to extend the effort.

From this July all children under 13 years old will have access to free doctors’ visits day and night, seven days a week.  This time, there has been a great uptake from General Practitioners around the country, so that virtually all GPs have signed up to the new scheme.

I do hope that throughout New Zealand Mums and Dads with young children will rest a little easier knowing that next time one of them gets sick they won’t have to hesitate before calling the doctor. 

This year our health budget will reach a record $15.9 billion.  It is an important part of our plan to deliver better care for families.   This is what careful financial management can deliver.   

Of course, it’s not just for the kids.  We’ve focused District Health Boards on health targets and they’re making real progress on improving access to elective procedures, on shorter waits for cancer treatment, short stays in emergency departments, better help for smokers to quit and more heart and diabetes checks.