Jenny Marcroft: Strengthening our health services to combat COVID-19

coronavirus 23/03/2020

By Jenny Marcroft MP, NZ First List MP and Spokesperson for Health.

The common strategy used worldwide to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic has been to “flatten the curve”. This aims to slow down transmission so health services are not overwhelmed.

Italy’s situation should serve as a warning, their health services are struggling to cope with rapidly increasing number of cases. However, equal importance should be placed on ensuring health services are well-equipped to deal with any eventuality.

As part of the Coalition Government’s economic package to combat COVID-19, our health services received an injection of $500 million. This is to protect the health of every New Zealander during the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is crucial we prevent widespread community transmissions like what we are seeing in other countries, but it is imperative we have robust health services ready to respond to our needs.

It is crucial we prevent widespread community transmissions.

Cabinet has immediately unlocked $235 million of this package to urgently strengthen our health capacity. That includes $32 million for extra intensive care capacity and equipment for our hospitals.

This is to ensure our health services are capable of meeting demand should there be a spike in people needing hospitalization. The added funding for our intensive care units will provide additional ventilated and non-ventilated capacity in both our public and private health services.

A $50 million fund has also been allotted for GPs and primary care providers.

Boosting our frontline healthcare staff will ensure those who are ill are given the right advice and – if at risk of having COVID-19 – can be promptly placed under isolation.

A sum of $40 million has been immediately released to boost our public health capacity. This nearly doubles our current annual spending which is at $46.7 million.

Strengthening our health capacity will be crucial to contain COVID-19. This new funding will have a strong emphasis on testing potential cases and contact tracing.

But we also want to promote physical distancing, which our health experts have strongly advised that we do. To do this, the financial package also provides $20 million to invest in technology such as video conferencing and telehealth to conduct consultations.

Boosting our frontline healthcare staff will ensure those who are ill are given the right advice.

There will be more resources provided to Healthline – which is our first port of call if you think you have symptoms of COVID-19. This will mean more doctors and nurses can be hired to provide clinical advice over the phone to lessen the need of physical contact.

The remaining $205 million will be earmarked for future announcements as required. This could be for initiatives such as replenishing our supply of medicines, flu vaccines, facemasks, and other personal protective equipment (PPEs).

Funds have also been set aside for enhanced primary care and community-based services – including Aged Residential Care hospital beds – should the need arise.

Other countries are finding themselves unable to meet with skyrocketing number of cases. This government is ensuring that our health services are well-equipped and prepared to deal with the health needs of every New Zealander.

Jenny Marcroft MP, NZ First List MP and Spokesperson for Health.