Labour: Elective surgeries lag demand

By Martin Johnston

1 comment
Annette King.
Annette King.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board is failing to meet a target aimed at helping look after some of the region's most vulnerable and Government policies are not keeping up with the growth in the number of elderly, the Labour Party says.

The party hit out at the Government yesterday, saying increases in elective surgery were not keeping up with the growth in the number of elderly people in New Zealand.

"The Government can go on saying they are doing more cataract and joint operations but the truth is that they are not keeping pace with demographics as the baby boomers reach retirement age," said Labour health spokeswoman Annette King.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has said district health boards had exceeded his targets for increasing the number of elective surgeries.

The Budget last May committed $98 million over several years to provide more elective surgery and improve the prevention and treatment of orthopaedic conditions.

Mrs King said yesterday, however, that it was "damning" that the public health system's target rates for hip and knee surgery and cataract operations was to do the same number, per head of population, as in 2011.

"Disturbingly over the same period, the growth rate of people over 65 using our district health boards has increased by 16.2 per cent," Mrs King said.

She said four DHBs - Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Southern and Taranaki - were struggling to meet targets for hip and knee operations.

Bay of Plenty and Waikato failed to meet targets for cataracts. Eleven did nearly 5000 fewer cataract surgeries than they were expected to do since 2011, and eight did 2000 fewer hip and knee surgeries.

The John Key Government has increased health funding each year since first elected in 2008, but critics say this has not kept up with rising healthcare costs from population growth and ageing, and rising medical prices. Labour calls this a "cut" in funding, which it estimates is $1.7 billion - more than 10 per cent of Government spending on Vote Health.

Mrs King said a big Vote Health increase would be needed in next week's Budget "to avoid a demographic time bomb around our baby boomers".

- Bay of Plenty Times

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