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Ryall defends budget's extra health funding

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Tony Ryall
Tony Ryall

By Amelia Romanos of NZPA

Wellington, June 16 NZPA - Health Minister Tony Ryall today defended the amount of extra health funding provided in the budget, saying the Government was operating in a difficult economic environment, when he fronted up to parliamentary select committee.

While health received a big slice of the total $1.1 billion new spending in last month's budget, the $512 million extra was significantly less than last year's $750 million, and, critics said, not enough to develop services.

Questioning the minister today, Green MP Kevin Hague asked if the extra money would even be enough to maintain current services.

"Your media release on budget day said that the increase to the health sector would help protect the sector from the constant increase of inflation in real terms. You'd accept then that the increase was not enough to cover the three basic drivers of population increase, population aging and health sector inflation," Mr Hague said.

"You'll be aware the estimates from the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists and the CTU (Council of Trade Unions) that, in fact, $555 million would have been necessary just to allow the sector to stand still."

Mr Ryall said there were a number of assumptions made in the organisations' calculations that varied from the figures drawn up by the Government, and that government calculations showed $509m was needed to maintain the current services.

"The important factor here though, is that the commitment that's been made in the budget is made in the context of a very difficult national and international financial environment," Mr Ryall said.

"We're at a time when other health services are laying off significant numbers of people, cutting the salaries of clinical staff, and confronting billions of pounds in reductions. Here in New Zealand, the government is borrowing $240 million a week to sustain public health services."

When pressed further about how the services would cope with inflation, Mr Ryall said: "the health service under both Governments has never said 'inflation's gone up by 2 percent, we'll give you 2 percent extra and not expect anything for it', because we still want the drive to improve productivity and performance," he said.

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