2 August 2012
On August 10, 2012, protesters will gather outside Wellington Hospital where Capital and Coast DHB is holding its board meeting, to protest against cuts in Newtown Union Health Service’s budget.
NUHS, set up in 1987 to serve a diverse, low-income and often vulnerable population, was given three months’ notice of losing $274,000 from their funding – eight percent of its budget.
The funding cuts mean the practice will not be able to replace staff when they leave, will be forced to introduce charges for six to 18-year-olds and raise the price of consultations for adults for the first time in 15 years. This is in an area where patients may have to make a choice between buying food and paying for medical services.
This is not the first cut suffered by NUHS: last year, a $300,000 surplus was returned to Capital and Coast DHB as a one-off payment. Manager Fiona Osten also notes that Capital and Coast still has some $20 million in savings of their own to make over the next two years. ‘It’s anybody’s guess where these will come from.’
Fiona says that the community has responded vocally to the cuts and that the DHB is considering its position. NUHS has given the board some options to consider, and they’re waiting until after the August meeting to decide how the business will respond further to the funding cuts.
The patients are supportive of the service, says Fiona, and they obviously want the surgery to stay. The team is working hard to cushion the impact the cuts will have on primary healthcare. As for the impact of fee rises, ‘It’s too early to say. The cut came into effect only in May. But we haven’t charged for the six to 18 age group before so we are having some research undertaken at the end of the year to evaluate the impact on the surgery and the patients.’
Newtown Union Health Service is a visible victim of this round of funding cuts but the service is not alone. According to Virginia McMillan on www.nzdoctor.co.nz, ‘union health services in neighbouring Porirua and Hutt Valley are also understood to be in a tight financial corner’.
The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand website www.teara.govt.nz says NUHS is one of several health centres nationwide set up by trade unions from the late 1980s to provide access to affordable primary health care for low-income people.
Those who would like to take a stand are asked to gather outside the hospital in Riddiford St at 8.45am.