Michael Woodhouse: National will make health a priority

Opinion 16/12/2019

By Michael Woodhouse, National Party List MP, Spokesperson for Health.

Health is fundamental to New Zealanders’ quality of life. From when you’re born, to your later years, or the many years in between, most Kiwis would agree that good health, and having access to high-quality healthcare, is one of the most important things in life.

In New Zealand we’re relatively lucky. We’ve got a public health system that, for the most part, delivers the high-quality care New Zealanders need, and responds to health challenges.

There’s room to do better.

Last week, National released our Health Discussion Document, our eighth this year, setting out what we believe are the challenges facing the health system in the coming years and how we can tackle them.

We want to ensure high-quality healthcare is available to all New Zealanders, no matter your income or where you live. We’ll end postcode lotteries in mental health and cancer care, and look at ways to improve services across the board, so Kiwis and their families have the tangible benefits of better healthcare.

The previous National Government invested in health and set challenging targets for improvement, so more New Zealanders could benefit from access to healthcare. We were ambitious with our targets, and they highlighted areas where we could continuously improve.

We can only deliver the healthcare New Zealanders need if we have a strong economy. National will revive the economy so that we can invest more in health.

Under Labour, New Zealand is going backwards.

The economy has gone from almost four per cent to two per cent each year. For every percentage point drop, that’s $800 million of lost tax revenue per year. Think how much more we could do in health if we had a stronger economy.

The current Labour-led Government is failing to deliver the healthcare New Zealanders need and deserve.

In the past two years, we’ve seen flatlining PHARMAC funding, a measles epidemic and 6000 fewer New Zealanders accessing elective surgeries – the hip replacements or the cataract surgeries that Kiwis typically need as they age.

Through our focus on targets, National will get New Zealand’s health system back on track, but we’ll also seek to do more.

Whether it’s in maternity care, improving pay for midwives so that we can attract and retain more of them to provide the best care for new mums, in cancer care, where we’ll treat more New Zealanders more quickly and establish an independent National Cancer Agency that ensures New Zealanders are getting the best possible care, or in a renewed focus on health challenges like dental care.

In fact, oral health is a great example of where National’s transformative Social Investment approach can give lifelong benefits for New Zealanders.

Currently, almost 120,000 children are overdue for their dental checks. We’ll invest in, and improve, the school dental service, and we’ll also trial a programme similar to the Childsmile programme in Scotland, which sees supervised toothbrushing for pre-schoolers every day so they develop positive habits that will carry them throughout their lives.

These are just a sample. National is proposing a range of policies in our Health Discussion Document, in all areas of health. We want to ensure New Zealanders get the best possible care, and our proposals set out how we’ll look to achieve this.

We’re doing the work in Opposition now so we’re ready to hit the ground running in 2020. Please give us your feedback here.

Michael Woodhouse is a National List MP and Spokesperson for Health.