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The Health Minister must be in panic mode this close to the Budget and with every single District Health Board in overdraft, meaning they will struggle to fund any new initiatives without cutting existing services, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“Not only has David Clark failed to deliver on his pledge to rein in the deficits at our 20 DHBs, they have worsened on his watch.

“It is unprecedented to have the core of New Zealand’s health system mired in this much red ink and every sign is that their financial position will deteriorate this year. DHBs still have outstanding pay negotiations to be settled and any hope of more funding for priorities like mental health or cancer looks forlorn.

“There will be no room for new initiatives unless Clark cuts health services. That could be cuts to surgery, primary care and community health. Clark’s officials say as much – DHBs ‘will need to realise significant efficiency improvements’ to reach their full-year targets.

“Mr Clark has been forced to release details of the DHB shortfall after months of keeping them from the public and it is worse than we thought. At the six-month mark, the combined deficit of the DHBs is $207 million, significantly worse than expected and on track to eclipse the record combined DHB deficit reached in 2002.

“Because the recent trend is for the second-half deficit to exceed the first, the full-year budgeted deficit of $346 million is hopeful at best. If the pattern continues, a full-year deficit of more than $600 million will be reached.

“Frankly, Mr Clark is presiding over a mess. Almost half the DHBs don’t have their annual plans approved yet, meaning their budgets ‘remain draft and are subject to change,’ officials say. To put that plainly, about 73 per cent of Vote Health is in limbo.

“The Health Minister has misled the New Zealand public on health spending to hide his broken promises and to mask the fact that he isn’t delivering on the expectations he raised. It is concerning that his approach may not be confined to Health as he also has the portfolio of associate Finance Minister.

“National favours sensible economic policies that help the New Zealand economy to grow, create jobs and contribute to our wellbeing. We would focus on ensuring the best provision of core public service that matter to Kiwis such as health and education.”

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