Dramatic rise in acute hospital patients a legacy of years of under-funding
“Years of under-funding the public health system and other social services have resulted in a dramatic increase in acute hospital admissions,” says Lyndon Keene, Director of Policy and Research at the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).
“Health Ministry figures show acute public hospital admissions increased by 20% over the seven years to 2017, and our hospital emergency departments are being inundated. Despite increased use of primary health care services, there is still significant unmet need. The system is stressed at every level.
“So while it’s is a relief that for the first time in recent history the public health sector appears to be in a financial position to maintain existing services, compared with last year, and also pay for new initiatives, it is essentially a stabilising measure. A great deal more funding is needed for the recovery.
“And there are still some potential costs coming up that could have an impact on the sector, including the outcome of pay negotiations for crucial groups of health employees as well as the pay equity settlements, such as for mental health care and support workers, and increasing DHB capital charges, which are taken from operating budgets.”
Mr Keene was commenting on today’s release of a joint post-Budget analysis of the Government’s Vote Health by the Council of Trade Unions and ASMS (http://www.union.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Did-Budget-2018-Provide-Enough-for-Health.pdf). This analysis compared the Government’s health funding announcements last month with a pre-Budget assessment of what resourcing the health sector needs (https://www.asms.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/How-Much-Funding-Does-Health-Need-in-Budget-2018.pdf) and noted patients arriving at hospital sicker than in previous years, as well as big increases in the number of hospital patients, pressure on hospital emergency departments and mental health services.
“Senior doctors and other frontline health workers have been carrying the burden of increased workloads, stress and burnout for years,” says Mr Keene.
“They will be relieved that for the first time in years district health boards won’t see another real funding cut.
“However, they will be concerned that a far greater funding increase is still needed to provide staffing levels that are safe for both patients and the health workforce, to respond to New Zealand’s growing health needs, and to meaningfully tackle long waiting lists and unmet health need in our communities.
“The financial boost given to the sector in this Budget is a reasonable start, but significant challenges remain.”