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Labour Party: Health Policy

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Labour is committed to a public health system that people can trust, one that is there for them regardless of their ability to pay. We will build upon the positive changes to our health system over this decade to offer the best possible service for all New Zealanders.

General Practitioners (GPs) and Primary Health Organisations

We will keep primary healthcare subsidies universal, so that everyone is able to get cheaper doctors visits and cheaper prescription medicines. A million Kiwis now pay no more than $16 to see a GP and the cost of most prescription medicines has been cut to no more than $3. Young families are saving around $550 each year and older couples are saving around $440. We are committed to addressing workforce issues in primary healthcare so that every kiwi has access to quality public healthcare when they need it.

Hospital and District Health Boards

We will continue to invest in increasing surgery that improves people’s quality of life. More New Zealanders now receive elective operations than ever before – over three hundred every day – and we’re committed to lifting that still further.

We will continue to maintain and improve hospital buildings and campuses so they are better able to cope with high demand in the public health system. Five major hospital redevelopments have now been approved and are underway, on top of eight major refurbishments and seven new hospitals built since 1999.

We are committed to retain the right for local communities to have their say on local health issues. Every three years you can now vote for your local representatives as part of local government elections. Labour believes that District Health Boards make better decisions for their communities when they are part of that community.

Labour will also ensure that District Health Boards work together to ensure that a consistently high standard of healthcare is available throughout the country. We will ensure that public health resources are used effectively for maximum benefit.

The Health Workforce

We will continue investing in more frontline staff, building on the 4,000 additional nurses and 1,000 additional doctors since 1999. Labour will continue to honour its commitment to valuing the role of nurses, following on from the historic pay increase for nurses that took place in 2005. We will retain the recent doubling in the number of GPs to be trained, up from 50 to 104 each year. We will also preserve changes to primary care services that have improved incomes for GPs and are making the area increasingly attractive to work in.

Caring for older people

Labour is committed to the progressive removal of asset testing for older people in long-stay residential care. We will build on major funding increases for aged residential care by looking at ways to improve the funding model, and improve quality controls in the aged care sector to ensure all of our older people get the standard of care they deserve.

We will also maintain the significant increases to home-based support funding, so older New Zealanders can be the ones to choose to stay in their own homes – not have the choice made for them.

We will continue to invest in funding of elective surgery, especially hip and knee replacements and cataract operations, all vital for maintaining independence. And from October 2008 we are lifting the subsidy for hearing aids from $198 to $500.

Child Health

Labour is dedicated to making sure our kids get the best start in life. We will continue to roll out the new free “School Ready” check up for all children before they start school. We will also keep supporting successful measures like the universal newborn hearing screening programme and Well Child checks for pre-schoolers.

Prevention and Promotion

Health is not only about helping people who fall ill, it’s also about keeping people well. We’re starting to see a halt to the previously relentless advance of obesity in children. Labour will continue to promote healthy, active lifestyles, including through Fruit in Schools and Mission On, which encourages our children to think and act in ways that keep them fit and healthy.

Labour is committed to fighting against cervical cancer with the introduction of an immunisation programme which is expected to save around thirty lives a year. The human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation programme will be offered to women aged 12-18.

Dental/Oral Health

Labour believes that good oral health is fundamental to the overall health of New Zealanders. We will continue with our multi-million dollar investment programme to ensure oral health facilities are up to scratch. We will also keeping building the oral health workforce and continue the fundamental shift towards focussing on preventive oral health.

Protecting the oral health of our children is a top priority. Labour will continue to shift services for children and teenagers from the existing School Dental Service to Community Oral Health Services. These community based clinics will not just provide treatment services, but will also a base to ‘reach out’ with oral health promotion activities. We will also maintain the increased funding in this area that has enabled there to be more dental assistants and ensured more pre-schoolers receive dental care.

Improved Rural Services

Labour will continue to support the substantial improvement in rural health services that has occurred in recent years. We will maintain schemes to retain and recruit GPs and nurses, and help medical professionals in rural areas improve access to health services. We will also encourage young doctors to spend time working in rural areas through the Rural Immersion Fund.

We’re committed to providing funding to support midwives who practise and work in rural areas, and the mobile surgical bus will continue to bring elective surgeries to rural communities.

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