Labour’s health funding promises appear to be unravelling, with a number of their commitments already being called into question.
Last month the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders was stunned when the Government went back on a $20 million pre-election pledge for rare diseases.
This was followed by Health Minister David Clark’s decision to delay bowel screening in South Canterbury, a significant blow given the high rates of bowel cancer in the region.
Now we have the West Coast’s Buller district up in arms over a lack of commitment from the Government around the development of a new health facility for the area, despite its pre-election promises.
Closer to home the Central Otago community is also in waiting over requests for increased financial support for Dunstan Hospital.
In the lead-up to the election, Dr Clark campaigned hard around increasing health funding for the regions, telling public meetings that he wanted to see a greater investment in health.
Central Otago Health Services, the community-owned, not-for-profit company which is responsible for providing health services out of Dunstan Hospital, has been proactive in highlighting capital investment issues to the Health Minister.
It has pointed out the need for increased funding for the hospital to support the district’s rapidly ageing and increasing population.
As a community, they are prepared to do what they can for their hospital but admit that the significant capital investment required to meet the additional ward space and enlarged assessment unit will require Government funding.
However, despite correspondence dating back to December last year, and a request from me for a meeting on the issue, Dr Clark has simply referred my enquiries back to the Southern District Health Board.
Clearly, the significant capital investment required in Central Otago falls outside the DHB’s jurisdiction and will instead require a regional health funding injection from Government – something similar to that which was promised by Dr Clark prior to the election.
Surely Dr Clark has now realised that he has hugely over promised and raised expectations in health and it seems that any of the pre-election promises with price tags are now at risk of being wound back.
If the Health Minister wants to retain any credibility, I would suggest that he needs to front up over his health election promises or admit why they are not forthcoming.