Ross: “Government needs to prioritise healthcare”

The recent nurse’s strike saw thousands of nurses turn towards industrial action for the first time in 30 years. This is the result of the Government raising expectations and prioritising other spending over that of meaningful health investments.

These strikes cause disruption for patients as hospital appointments are rescheduled and uncertainty creeps into the healthcare system. That is why it is so important the Government commits to acting in good faith in the way it funds healthcare.

The Government promised a lot of money to the health sector, including policies such as free doctor visits and adding $8 billion more into the health budget, but these have not been achieved. The Government argues that they simply do not have the money.

But the Government inherited a strong economy. The Government has had no issue finding the money to pay for $1b for more diplomats, $3b free fees for tertiary students and a $3b slush fund for Shane Jones.

The Government chose to fund these policies over funding for healthcare. What’s worse, they’re putting even less into the health budget than what National was. In their last Budget, Labour added $731 million. In National’s last budget we added $924b.

We can also see that over the next four years, Labour is planning on adding $1b less into health than what National had committed to.

National’s record on health was not perfect, but health spending was at record levels. We invested $100m into new mental health initiatives, we were seeing increasing numbers of New Zealanders receive the elective surgeries they wanted with an increase of 56,000 surgeries since we took office. We were also committed to funding more money for cancer treatments, and lower costs for kids to see their GPs.

To ensure a well-functioning healthcare system and a recognition of the work nurses do, we need a Government that will commit to healthcare as a top priority. Health should be prioritised over untargeted and misguided spending like we see with the provincial growth fund and fees-free tertiary spending.

Jami-Lee Ross

MP for Botany