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It is disappointing that the combined deficit of New Zealand’s 20 District Health Boards looks set to balloon to about $500 million despite David Clark’s pledge when he took office that he would bring it under control, National’s Health spokesman Michael Woodhouse says.

“The deficit for 2018/19 could be more than four times as high as the last year of the previous National Government. The Health Minister said in December 2017 that DHB debt was ‘deeply concerning’ and ‘cannot be allowed to continue’ but it has worsened on his watch.

“More than a year after pledging to rein in the deficits, the DHBs are in a weaker financial position. Eight months into the latest fiscal year Dr Clark has yet to announce the approval of a single annual plan and he has stalled on releasing any financial details for the DHBs.

“National oversaw a combined DHB deficit of $119 million in 2016/17 and budgeted for a similar-sized deficit for 2017/18.  DHB performance was tracking only slightly above budget until November 2017 when the new Government came in and the combined deficit jumped to $240 million in that fiscal year.

“The Government has neither provided the funding they claimed they would nor set expectations for continued fiscal discipline. The financial chickens are coming home to roost. At some point Dr Clark should stop blaming previous administrations and get on with the job.

“The Health Select Committee has heard from both Northland and Counties Manukau DHBs that their respective financial deficits are forecast to be double last year’s.  My sources in DHBs across the country say they are in a similar position.

“Indeed it is likely that the deficits of just three DHBs, Counties Manukau, Canterbury and Southern, will exceed the total deficits of the 20 DHBs in National’s last full year in office.

“I call on Dr Clark to be honest with the New Zealand public about the situation and explain what he and his Government is going to do to stem the tide of neglect by them over the past 16 months. New Zealand’s health system requires diligent oversight not wishful thinking.”

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