Plague on health cuts

Green Party spokesperson on health Kevin Hague is a long time critic of the plague of underspending on health, which is a perpetual problem. He wrote on his Facebook page:

Readers of my Facebook posts will know I have been going on about the underfunding of health services for years. It’s great that others are taking up the call. Key points:

  1. Health funding cuts in real terms mean more and more unmet need
  2. Health services have been asked to find “efficiencies” every year under both Labour and National. There just aren’t substantial efficiencies left, without compromising service quality
  3. While the Government tries to justify underfunding by saying there’s been a global financial crisis and everyone has to tighten their belts, the fact is that Government has chosen to spend billions of dollars on other things, such as tax cuts for the wealthiest, roads of ‘National’ significance etc. It’s not that there isn’t enough money. It’s that this government chooses to spend it on other things.

An important role in Opposition is to question and challenge spending priorities, especially on things like health.

We will always have a problem with not having enough money to spend on health care and hospitals. Getting the best value from available funds is a difficult balancing act.

And getting the best balance out of the country’s overall budget is also very difficult and will always be open to disagreement.

Health is a particularly sensitive issue because it can affect us so much. What care is available can be the difference between life and death, for our parents, our children, and ourselves.

I’ve seen some very good aspects to our health care, which is the best it has ever been in New Zealand and comparable to some of the best in the world.

I’ve also experienced and seen some of the frustrations, deficiencies and personal costs.

But when our health and our lives are at stake we will always want better and more.

Hague mentions tax cuts for the wealthiest and roads of ‘National’ significance. I need to travel by road to get to the doctor or the hospital.

“Tax cuts for the wealthiest” was actually tax cuts for many of us. It may have made health insurance more affordable for some.

That the better off can afford premium health cover and can afford to pay for private tests, treatment and operations creates a two tier health system which to some will appear to be unfair – life can be unfair, ask anyone who gets cancer – but it has wider benefits for al of us – if more people can afford their own private health care then it eases the pressure on public health provision for those that rely on that.

Should we proportionally increase health spending?

Is it more important than roads? How many people get heart attacks from Auckland traffic induced stress and poor lifestyle (like eating/drinking junk on the road)?

Is it more important than big city rail links?

Is it more important than feeding all kids at school?

Is it more important than subsidising the Christchurch rebuild?

Is it more important than free tertiary education that will increase the number of futile degrees and diplomas?

Is it more important than increasing minimum wages?

Is it more important than bloated political PR departments?

Is it more important than Citizen Initiated Referenda used by parties for political purposes?

I have no argument with Hague continually raising the issue of health spending priorities, even though he is a bit selective and catch-phrasy with his comparisons.

But we will always have arguments over what is the most deserving recipient of our tax dollars. Especially when our lives may depend on it.

Leave a comment


  1. There are very few countries ( perhaps none ) where opposition politicians would say we are spending enough of health care. I would be happy to advocate for significantly more expenditure in health if it came with a root and branch reform of the system. The current provider system is cumbersome and mixed up with private and charitable providers in primary care and then behemoths of DHBs in secondary care. I struggle to see how that can aid efficient investment but who knows …

  2. kiwi guy

     /  23rd February 2016

    A rapidly aging population and a way out of balance retirees to workers ratio is going to send us broke trying to fund hospitals and pensions.

    • @ KG – This is a huge issue which will need to be approached multi-dimensionally IMO.

      Constantly adding more expensive procedures and drugs will only exacerbate things.

      There needs to be an equal or greater emphasis on health promotion and illness prevention. It might be possible to somewhat rewind the “medicalisation of health” as has happened with childbirth.

      IMHO, a largely forgotten area of the greater issue is the psychological component of physical illness.

  3. alloytoo

     /  23rd February 2016

    Tax cuts for the wealthy is a redundant statement, the poor don’t, by definition, pay tax.

  4. kittycatkin

     /  23rd February 2016

    How far do you go to make idiots take care of their own health ? I know a youngish man whose blood pressure is through the roof, but he still does stupid and unnecessary things like virtually coating his food with salt. He probably has clones all over NZ doing the same things.

    We all know that being obese is a health risk, but we all see obese people merrily carrying on drinking sugary drinks and eating fatty food,

    As a former fatty who’s kept most of it off this time, I can say that there is no comparison between being fat and not being fat. It’s nonsense to say that fatty takeaways are cheaper, they aren’t. My meal tonight will be chickpeas and tomatoes layered in a bowl to make a nice ‘salad’-cost, 50c for the chickpeas, 37.5c for the tomatoes, 26c for the hardboiled egg. Total cost just over $1 and as the two main ingredients were in tins, there’s no preparation except opening them (tinned tomatoes work better for this than fresh) What would I get by way of takeaways for that ? Bugger all, I suspect.

    My blood pressure was also through the roof, but not now. But no extra funding would have made any difference to my bad health habits-and mine were nothing like as bad as many people’s are who are fatter than I ever was-and I was fairly fat.The only person who could change them was….me.

    My husband could not have had better care in his last days in hospital-you’d have thought that he was the only patient in the ward and their onw family member. They went above and beyond the call of duty. Yes, any hospital could do with more funding, but I suspect that there will never be enough as demand will always be running ahead of supply.

    • Well said KCK. Very well said.

      The “demand” you talk about now comes from both directions too, in my (relatively uninformed) humble opinion. It comes from patients AND it comes from the pharmo-medi-tech industry, producing ever more expensive machines and “medications” to alleviate “symptoms”. This isn’t bad, but to think the cure for cancer will be a heinously expensive drug without looking into the lifestyle and personal factors is unintelligent and half-pie.

      As you point out, we need to look at causes and also “cures” and remedies, which might in some cases exist in more ancient forms of medicine? These are being progressively excluded from the arena I think?

    • mrMan

       /  23rd February 2016

      Eating battery farmed eggs, with all their hormones and antibiotics, combined with tinned food, and whatever leeches out of the can, and the bisphenol A in the seal, plus all the added salt in the chickpeas, and the calcium salt they bathe tinned tomatoes in so they don’t fall apart. All that and no vegetables, doesn’t sound too healthy, or tasty.

      • kittycatkin

         /  23rd February 2016

        I drain the chickpeas-and they come in springwater nowadays. You’re behind the times, mrMad. I don’t believe that tins are that harmful-we’re talking urban myth scaremongering, here-or everyone who used them would die of the same diseases, These are chopped tomatoes, smartie,not whole ones ‘held together with calcium salt’, whatever that may be, if it’s anything. How do you know where the eggs came from, clever dick ? I have friends with hens.

        Chickpeas and tomatoes ARE vegetables-what on earth do you think they are ?

        • kittycatkin

           /  23rd February 2016

          You’re thinking of calcum chloride, long used as a plant food and completely safe in moderation in food; it’s much better than sodium and the EU, among others, have said that it’s quite safe. In fact, calcium cholride helps to keep things soft. It’s found in tinned fruits.

          You obviously have never seen things like tomatoes and peas growing, or you’d know that they were, in fact, vegetables. I’ll bet that this meal is a damned sight healthier than deep fried dead animals and chips washed down with sugar-laden drinks and covered with salt and sugar-laden sauce. .

          Do look at the tinned beans section in the supermarket and you’ll see that many are now in spring water. You may not have noticed that even in supermarkets, free range eggs are available. Your desperation to prove someone wrong has again taken over from checking your facts first. Chickpeas and tomatoes aren’t vegetables ? Well, tomatoes are technically fruit because they grow on vines, but nobody would put them in a fruit salad or on a pavlova because of this.

          • mrMan

             /  23rd February 2016

            Tomatoes are a fruit because they contain the seeds of the plant.

            Every time from now on that you call me mrMad, I’m gonna call you SHITTY-SPLAT-GIMP

        • mrMan

           /  23rd February 2016

          Tomato is a fruit, and chickpeas are a legume.
          Chopped tomatoes are still bathed in calcium salt, to keep them as distinct dices, rather than mush. The eggs are an assumption based on price, only shitty battery eggs go for 29 cents in the shops.

          Draining the water from the chickpeas is a given, who would eat that, but the fact is the salt is assimilated into them, you can’t wash it off. And it’s nearly half a teaspoon of salt in a can.

          • kittycatkin

             /  23rd February 2016

            Whatever you say-if you think that there’s no difference between brine and spring water, and that peas and tomatoes aren’t vegetables, so be it. If you think that all ‘salts’ are the kind of sodium salt that people put in salt shakers, so be it-I hope that nobody ever gives you bath salts for a present. If you think that peas aren’t vegetables, so be it. Most people use and think of tomatoes as vegetables, but if you prefer to use them as the fruit that they technically are, although most people use them as vegetables, that’s your right. There’s no reason why someone can’t put tomatoes on a pavlova or have them with icecream or custard, but most of us prefer not to. But if you do, that’s your business, mrManiac.

            • mrMan

               /  23rd February 2016

              The fact is that vegetable is a catch-all phrase. All vegetables are actually/properly something else,(pulse, legume, brassica, curcubit, fruit,berry,) often more than one thing at once, and all fruits come under the catch-all vegetable.

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