Monday, March 4, 2024

Govt’s billion dollar plan for health system recovery

The Government says it is tackling pay and workforce pressures in the health system with a billion dollar investment that will see pay rates and nurse numbers boosted.

“The Budget is focused on three service priorities – winter, workforce and waitlists, as we build a more equitable health system,” said Health Minister, Ayesha Verrall.

She said Budget 2023 will see a $1.3 billion funding boost to address health cost pressures and workforce shortages.

“To help stabilise our workforce, we are investing over $1 billion in increasing health workers’ wages and boosting staff numbers, with a focus on areas facing greatest demand,” Dr Verrall said. 

The funding includes $63 million for progressing safe staffing and allows for an additional 500 new nurses to be employed, she said.

“Budget 2022 invested $76 million over four years to develop the health workforce, with a focus on primary care and nurses.”

“Key targeted workforce initiatives such as Te Pitomata grants for tauira Māori and Ngā Manukura o Āpōpō nursing and midwifery leadership training will remove barriers to more responsive training pathways, increasing recruitment, and improving immigration processes to alleviate workforce shortages.”

The Minister said that around $99 million would go towards providing primary and community care closer to people’s homes, reducing pressure on hospitals, and speeding up discharge from hospitals through community-based care for older people this winter.

“$118 million has been allocated to help reduce waiting lists by improving patient flow, enabling planned care to be delivered in primary settings and freeing up inpatient hospital beds, allowing for surgeries to go ahead.”

“We are spending $20 million to establish outreach services to lift immunisation and screening coverage for Māori and Pacific peoples, and implement approaches and improvements in care and treatment that increase life expectancy of Māori and Pacific peoples.”

She said primary and community care were key to reducing pressure on hospital services and providing people the care they need when and where they need it.

“In 2023/24, we are putting an extra half a billion dollars into primary and community care sector, to support sector stability and to reduce pay disparities overtime between hospital and community health sector staff.”d

“I recently announced funding of $44 million over two-years for primary care providers serving communities with the highest needs in New Zealand. This funding will support the establishment of comprehensive primary care teams, build capacity in the workforce, and address the burden of under-funding for Māori and Pacific providers. We will also allocate $4.9 million for the training and development of the new kaiāwhina workforce to support these teams.”

The Minister said a targeted investment of $37 million over the next two years will more equitably allocate primary care funding to general practices based on their enrolled high-needs populations, and those providers with the highest Māori and Pacific populations.

“As part of this boost to strengthen primary, community and rural care, to support the winter pressures, we’re funding up to 193 additional frontline clinical team members across the country to focus on early intervention, faster treatment and better support for whanau.”

“We are also well aware of how important both physical and mental health is for our rangatahi and through historic investment have expanded our School Based Health Services to over 300 decile 1-5 secondary schools. Around 96,000 students have access to nurses who can support mental wellbeing at school.”

Minister Verrall said it was the Government’s intention that future health budgets will move to a three-year funding cycle to align with the first three-year New Zealand Health Plan, due in 2024.

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