Senior doctors warn against health spending cuts
Last updated 13:16 19/11/2009

Any cuts in health spending next year will be devastating for patients and won't save money, senior doctors said today.

They were responding to a report that papers for an Auckland District Health Board committee meeting yesterday indicated spending cuts of between 5 and 10 per cent might have to be made.

Health Minister Tony Ryall has signalled that the recession means the health sector, while set to get a rise in funding in next year's budget, will receive less than the $750 million increase it got this year.

Auckland DHB chief planning and funding officer Denis Jury told the New Zealand Herald that the Health Ministry had indicated "the funding for next year is likely to be less that this year" after adjusting for inflation.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said senior doctors agreed with the Government's desire to improve the effectiveness of health spending through measures such as increasing leadership in the system.

"But cutting funding will undermine this commendable objective," he said in a statement.

"Health cuts don't heal. Instead they hurt patients, stress out health professionals and become more expensive."

Mr Powell said the irony of funding cuts was that they ended up costing more, because of issues such as increased chronic illnesses and emergency admissions.

He said a 5 to 10 per cent cut in Auckland was likely to mean the same for the rest of New Zealand, and public hospitals had already been under-funded over recent years.

However, a spokeswoman for Mr Ryall said there had been no firm budget decisions, but there would be no reduction in income for the Auckland DHB.

Like all DHBs, Auckland would receive more money next year, although the increase would be lower than this year's 7 per cent (which equated to $60 million).

She said DHBs had been told they had to shift money from low-quality spending and back office functions to frontline services.

Most of the proposed spending restraint in Auckland appeared to be in health promotion.

Board chairman Pat Snedden had given an assurance that any savings the DHB found would got back into frontline services.

From here.