Prime Minister backs Plunketline plan

Opposition parties are fuming over the decision to withdraw funding from Plunketline, but Prime Minister Helen Clark says the contract is going to another provider because it offered a better service.

The Ministry of Health announced on Friday that McKesson New Zealand, the company already contracted to provide the 24-hour Healthline service, had been chosen to provide a Well Child free phone service as well.

National's leader Don Brash described the decision as an "appalling betrayal" and accused the Government of setting up Plunket to fail by underfunding it.

Act's Heather Roy said Plunket's phone-answering nurses had provided an excellent service for a decade, and United Future leader Peter Dunne said they had been "manoeuvred out of the picture".

Green Party MP Sue Kedgley said awarding the contract to a provider owned by an American company was "a new low".

Helen Clark said the ministry would have been severely criticised if it had not put the service out to tender, and if it had done anything other than award it on quality of service.

Kaye Crowther, president of Plunket, said she was seeking an urgent meeting with Helen Clark.

But Helen Clark said Ms Crowther should talk it through with Health Minister Pete Hodgson.

- NZPA

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