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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A sick budget and dangerously understaffed hospitals


The oldest universal public health system in the world is under attack by National's austerity budget. New Zealand's public health system, once a model for the whole world, is being run down, underfunded and slowly prepared for privatisation.

Education unions won an inspiring victory against National, against Treasury and showed us all that the cuts can be fought and reversed. Now it is time for health workers and patients to step up the resistance to National's attacks on the public healthcare system.

The nurses union, NZNO described the 24 May Budget 'A sick budget'. NZNO CEO Geoff Annals said, "The bottom line is that there has not been enough money spent on health to retain the services we already have, and to pay for new initiatives."
"Nurses are expecting to see user pays charges, cuts to services and jobs, and poorer, sicker patients arriving at hospital with the diseases and illness of poverty. We are in for a tough year. It will be especially tough for New Zealanders who have chronic illness and are poor, and the wider budget unfairly targets young New Zealanders."
The underfunding of health has left Auckland hospitals understaffed by about 120 nurses and last month 'a baby stopped breathing and almost died at Starship hospital because there were no nurses on its ward, according to a nurse who says chronic staff shortages are putting lives at risk'.

There is a concerted assault on New Zealand's good quality, universal, public health system. Prescription charges rose $2 in the budget and as Kaitaia GP Lance O'Sullivan told Newstalk ZB he's already seeing patients who struggle to afford their prescriptions and now it will be harder for them. "The harm from that is people are going to go untreated and that's going to result in increased cost through people getting unwell to the point requiring hospital admission."

National's attacks on class sizes were beaten back by a mobilisation of teachers and the community. Health workers can mobilise and win too. It's time to step up the struggle.

-Socialist Aotearoa

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