New Zealand’s public healthcare crisis worsens
19 January 2019
New Zealand’s Labour Party-led coalition government took office in October 2017 promising to address the severe crisis caused by more than a decade of cuts to the public health system. The previous National Party government underfunded healthcare by billions of dollars as part of austerity measures demanded by the corporate elite to force the burden of the 2008 financial crisis on working people.
More than a year later, Labour’s election promises—like those it made to address poverty and inequality—have been exposed as a fraud. Nominal funding increases have failed to keep pace with inflation, and therefore with the needs of the growing and ageing population and increasing levels of sickness. Public hospitals remain drastically understaffed and overcrowded, wages for health workers are effectively frozen, and thousands of patients are being denied treatment.
The government’s priority, spelled out in its “budget responsibility rules,” has been to keep taxes low for corporations and the rich, and overall public spending below 30 percent of GDP, the same level as National. As the world economy becomes ever more volatile and heads towards another recession, governments in every country are responding with deeper cuts to spending on healthcare, education and other essential services.
The Ministry of Health has instructed the country’s 20 District Health Boards (DHBs) to reduce their operating deficits, totalling $240 million last financial year, which is likely to lead to further cost-cutting. The government set aside only $100 million for deficit relief and Minister David Clark said the majority of the DHBs would remain in deficit in 2018–2019.
On December 28, Fairfax Media…