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Health to get lion's share of reprioritised spending


Thursday 19th May 2011

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The cash-hungry health sector will get the lion's share of reprioritised money in this year's budget, with $165 million coming from cuts within the sector.

An extra $585m would be pumped into health this year, with $420m coming from savings in other areas of the budget and $165m from health savings.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said health was the biggest recipient of funding in this year's budget, which demonstrated the Government's strong commitment to protecting and growing public health services in difficult economic times.

"Despite the serious economic environment, this Government will have invested an additional $1.5 billion of new resources into health in its first three years in office to meet our commitment to a strong and enduring public health service," he said.

The health sector will get a total of $13.9b this year, including $13.2b in operating expenses and $454m in capital expenditure. That total is up from $13.5b last year, when the sector received a $512m funding boost.

District health boards (DHBs) will receive about $400m this year, including $50m in service contracts from the Ministry of Health.

Ryall said a total of $2.2b would be pumped into the health sector over the next four years, with funding going towards extra medical training, wider access to medicines, more elective surgery, disability support, maternity services and doctors' visits subsidies.

Some $505.1m of extra funding will come from reprioritised health spending, with savings to be made in workplace training, immunisation, back-office spending, and contingency funds that are no longer needed.

The savings include $39m in workforce training by centralising training budgets, $20m in staff cuts and back-office savings, and $19.4m in savings in vaccine prices and lower required immunisation volumes.

National contracting of services will yield $72m in savings over four years, while contingency funding that is no longer needed will save $30m.

The extra spending over four years will include $18m for 40 extra medical training places, as part of the Government's promise to boost the number of medical trainees by 200 over five years.

Some $80m over four years will go towards widening access to medicines, with 32,000 patients to benefit from extra funding in the first year.

Elective surgery will get $68m, which will go towards funding more operations and reducing waiting times.

Dementia care and mental health will get $40m each in extra funding, which is expected to provide almost 200 extra beds for dementia patients over the next two years and extend respite care.

An extra $130m will go towards disability services over fours years to meet rising costs.

DHBs will provide $80m over four years to subsidise GP visits, with $14m to go towards allowing more people to qualify for programmes such as low-cost access and free visits for under six year-olds.

Also among the extra funding is $54.5m over four years for maternity care and services for new mothers, which Ryall signalled before the budget.

While overall immunisation funding has been trimmed, there will be a $12m boost to fighting rheumatic fever in vulnerable communities.

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said the funding would help coordinate programmes to eliminate the preventable disease.

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