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Health Conference Scrapped After Minister Raises Concerns

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Tony Ryall
Tony Ryall

Wellington, Jan 21 NZPA - The Health Ministry has canned a major conference of more than 300 health care professionals after Health Minister Tony Ryall called for a review.

The $123,000 primary health care delivery conference was to be held in Wellington from February 24 to 26.

A spokesman for Mr Ryall today said Health Ministry chief executive Stephen McKernan had made the decision to scrap the conference after the minister had raised concerns and ordered a review of all conferences.

The conference, planned by the ministry and District Health Boards New Zealand, would have been the third of its kind in the past five years.

The spokesman said Mr Ryall was committed to redirecting health dollars to the front line.

He said Mr McKernan had made the decision to scrap the conference based on the number of registrations and the fact the Royal College of General Practitioners would be running a conference within weeks of the ministry's one.

However, it was possible it would be held later in the year, once professionals had had the chance to digest and discuss the Government's health policies.

Labour deputy leader Annette King said the Government had canned the conference for political reasons and in doing so had broken its promise to help DHBs work more co-operatively.

She said the conference included presentations by health promoters, pharmacists, rural GPs and elder care providers.

"This would have been the perfect opportunity for not only health professionals, but also the minister of health to learn from providers across the primary care sector, but instead Mr Ryall has chosen to score a few cheap political points.

"Cancelling this conference only highlights the lack of importance National places on primary health care."

A ministry spokeswoman told NZPA the total cost of the conference would have been $350,000, but that dropped by $227,000 to $123,000 once it was offset by the conference fees of $790 per person.

It is the second conference the new Government has indirectly cancelled since the election.

In December Social Development Minister Paula Bennett directed the Families Commission to reconsider a $200,000 conference due to the tough economic times.

The commission scrapped the conference, which was to bring together 150 "leaders and decision makers" in Auckland in February.

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