The Government's increases in elective surgery are not keeping up with the growth in the number of elderly people in New Zealand, the Labour Party says.
"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 that district health boards have 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 today, however, that it is "damning" that the public health system's target rates for hip and knee surgery and cataract operations is to do the same number, per head of population, as in 2011. These are operations done more commonly on the elderly.
"Disturbingly over the same period, the growth rate of people over 65 using our district health boards has increased by 16.2 per cent."
She said four DHBs - Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Southern and Taranaki - are struggling to meet targets for hip and knee operations. Bay of Plenty and Waikato have 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 will be needed in next week's Budget "to avoid a demographic time bomb around our baby boomers".
Dr Coleman's office said today that he could not comment about the Budget before its release next Thursday.
The minister rejected Mrs King's claim that health funding had been cut.
"The fact is that the Health budget has increased by $4 billion over the past seven years to a record $15.9 billion," Dr Coleman said.