Protest against cuts to health funds

By Kate Shuttleworth

A protester outside Wellington Hospital today. Photo / APNZ
A protester outside Wellington Hospital today. Photo / APNZ

Protesters gathered outside Wellington Hospital this morning to oppose funding cuts to low-cost health services.

About 100 people from Newtown Union Health and a coalition of community groups called United Community Action Newtown (UCAN) are opposing $20 million funding cuts to primary health care services.

They said the Government had directed district health boards to make savings, who have opted to cut funding to primary health service providers across the region.

The Capital and Coast District Health Board (DHB) is meeting inside the hospital to consider submissions from Newtown Union Health and other primary health providers on the funding cuts.

Newtown Union Health Service, across the road from the Wellington Hospital, had a $300,000 funding cut from the DHB this year - a drop of eight per cent.

Newtown Union health delivers low or no-cost services to mental health consumers, refugees and others with high needs.

UCAN coordinator Debbie Leyland said the health centre expected bigger cuts in the year ahead.

"It has been indicated that the DHB needs to save an additional $20 million over the next two years which will have a serious impact on primary health care."

She said Newtown Union Health were being forced to increase fees and the cuts would put more pressure on the accident and emergency department of Wellington Hospital.

Massey University Centre for Public Health professor Don Matheson said the cuts targeted the most vulnerable patients.

"Newtown Union Health Care was set up to make primary health care accessible to a population with very high needs," he said.

"When there are cuts to services it is making it more difficult for the most vulnerable to access care," said Mr Matheson.

Labour MP Andrew Little said primary care should be a priority and primary providers should be as important as hospitals in terms of funding.

Wellington city councillor for Newtown Paul Eagle said the cuts were appalling.

"The squeeze has gone on the DHB to cut, cut, cut, but what they've gone on and done is taken the easy option and said let's get rid of funding to the most vulnerable," he said.

The meeting of the DHB was closed to the public and a decision on submissions would be made later today.

- APNZ

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