Friday, March 1, 2024

Capsule Votes – Healthcare Edition: How the Parties Stack Up on the Issues YOU Care Most About

What issues do you feel most strongly about as the election looms? We asked our readers this on social media – and you answered with five issues that are top of mind right now: the cost of living, health, education, childcare and climate change. So we’ve TRAWLED through party policy, and here we’ve broken down the policies on these five issues in this series in the lead-up to the election. The issue most of you ranked as your number one concern, was cost of living. Second up, is today’s topic: Healthcare (including mental health).

How are the main parties planning on tackling the HUGE challenge of healthcare? What election promises are being made? Read onespecially if you’re not sure who you’re giving your vote to just yet!

Note – we don’t have the scope to mention absolutely everything, but we’ll bullet-point the key moves and measures that we think you’ll care about, and we encourage you to head to the individual parties’ websites for more in-depth details.

Health (physical and mental)

Every single one of us is invested in healthcare. Those of us in good health want to know that accessible, timely services are there should we (or our loved ones) need them. Those of us who are experiencing health problems want to be able to access good care in a timely fashion. So what are the main parties proposing to do to improve the health system?

Labour would:

  • Boost funding of Pharmac (the agency that makes decisions on which medicines are funded) by $1 billion over the next four years so it can fund additional medicines, providing more treatment for cancers and other critical illnesses (labour.org.nz/news-release_labour_pledges_billion_dollar_medicines_boost)
  • Increase places available at NZ’s two medical schools by 335 (by 2027) and provide an additional 700 clinical nursing placements (by next year), as outlined in the Health Workforce Plan 2023/24 (tewhatuora.govt.nz/publications/health-workforce-plan-202324).
  • Attract more nursing and midwifery students through ‘earn-and-learn’ options and hardship assistance.
  • Continue to recruit health workers from overseas.
  • Progressively extend the living wage to health workers.
  • Equalise pay for hospital and GP-clinic nurses.
  • Fund free basic dental care for under-30s.
  • Make cervical screening free for those aged 25-69.
  • Extend the age of free breast-cancer screening from 69 to 74.
  • Keep prescriptions free.
  • Establish a Māori Health Funding Authority to put Māori in control of the health spend for Māori.
  • Implement a national endometriosis action plan.
  • Build a new hospital in Hawke’s Bay.
  • Enable mental-health professionals to attend emergency-call mental-health incidents.
  • Continue to implement measures recommended by the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry, including the Suicide Prevention Strategy.
  • Continue to resource the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission (mhwc.govt.nz) that it established.
  • Continue rolling out a workforce of mental-health professionals, including those working in early intervention. This includes an additional 12 psychiatry trainees a year.
  • Expand the Mana Ake Stronger Together programme (which provides early-intervention mental healthcare to Canterbury children) to reach 195,000 primary-school and intermediate-school children in NZ.

National would:

  • Allocate $280 million to Pharmac over four years to pay for 13 treatments for lung, bowel, kidney, melanoma, head and neck cancers that provide significant clinical benefits and are funded in Australia but not yet in NZ (assets.nationbuilder.com/nationalparty/pages/18436/attachments/original/1696286925/Better_Health_Outcomes.pdf?1696286925).
  • Reintroduce national health targets for wait times for surgeries, specialist visits, cancer treatment, emergency-department visits, and immunisations.
  • Train an extra 225 doctors a year by 2030, by establishing a new medical school at the University of Waikato and increasing placements at Auckland and Otago medical schools.
  • Create a student-loan-repayment and bonding scheme for nurses and midwives who commit to work in NZ for five years post-graduation. Offer six-month work visas, and some relocation grants, for overseas nurses and midwives.
  • Increase the number of psychiatric-registrar places to 50 a year.
  • Double the number of clinical-psychologist placements to 80 a year.
  • Extend after-birth hospital stays from two days to three.
  • Reinstate the $5 prescription fee, limiting free prescriptions to those with a Community Services Card or a SuperGold Card.
  • Establish a Minister For Mental Health
  • Establish a Mental Health Innovation Fund (MHIF) (national.org.nz/national_to_funda_community_mental_health_ngos) that would give $20 million in matching funds over four years to community providers and NGOs who demonstrate they’re delivering strong positive mental-health outcomes – and help them scale up their operations.
  • Disestablish Te Aka Whai Ora (the Māori Health Authority), which is responsible for ensuring the health system works well for Māori. National prefers a Māori health directorate within the Ministry of Health.

The Green Party would:

  • Provide universal, timely and accessible diagnosis, treatment and management of all illnesses and injuries.
  • Fully fund healthcare, including GP visits, dental check-ups, aged care, ambulance and emergency services, mental-health services and palliative care.
  • Resource the Māori Health Authority to work in an equal partnership with the Ministry of Health and Te Whatu Ora (Health NZ).

ACT would:

NZ First would:

Te Pāti Māori would:

  • Increase funding for the Māori Health Authority.
  • Provide free primary healthcare and dental care for, and free delivery of medication to, whānau earning less than $60,000.
  • Implement a Māori Health Card so health funding follows the Māori patient directly.
  • Establish a Māori Health Funding Authority to put Māori in control of the health spend for Māori.

The Opportunities Party (TOP) would:

  • Provide free primary healthcare to under-30s, including free GP visits, dental visits, and up to five mental-healthcare sessions per year – and create a ‘Teal Card’ (a physical card and app) to access this.

Tune in in a few days to read our policy breakdown on Education!

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