New Zealand Labour government’s budget fails to address health crisis
8 June 2018
The Labour-led government’s 2018 budget, released May 17, is a woefully inadequate answer to New Zealand’s desperate healthcare situation. Patients across the country are suffering because successive Labour and National Party governments have starved the country’s healthcare system of funds for decades.
Last month 27,000 nurses in public hospitals voted in favour of a nationwide strike in July. There is widespread anger among nurses, healthcare assistants and hospital midwives over entrenched low pay, long hours and dangerous under-staffing.
Labour formed a coalition with the populist New Zealand First and the Green Party after last September’s election. Labour’s campaign promised an $8 billion healthcare boost over four years. A few days before the election, leader Jacinda Ardern told Fairfax Media: “It’s simply unacceptable after nine years of this government that patients are not getting the timely care they need.”
In April, however, Ardern warned that her government “will not be able to address nine years of neglect in one budget.” Labour has adhered to strict “Budget Responsibility Rules,” and intends to return a surplus of $3 billion and reduce net debt below 20 percent of gross domestic product.
Former Health Minister John Coleman admitted last year that the total District Health Board (DHB) deficit exceeded $117 million. Labour set up the 20 DHBs in 2000 on the basis of local “autonomy” and business “discipline.” Many are now deeply in debt and enforcing service cuts.
The DHBs will need $14 billion for capital alone over the next 10 years. However, the budget only increases capital funding by $850 million and operational funding by…