24 Oct 2013

Leaked health figures savings, not cuts - minister

8:57 am on 24 October 2013

The Health Minister is rejecting a Labour Party claim that there may be cuts being made to vital public health services.

The issue was raised in Parliament on Wednesday by Labour's health spokesperson Annette King.

Ms King told MPs she had received a document leaked from district health boards and Health Benefits Limited (HBL), the agency charged with finding $700 million in savings for reinvestment into front-line health services.

It specifies, among other things, that $2 million has been saved in wound care and $1 million from a child and youth oral health equipment project.

Almost $600,000 is listed as being saved on cardiology.

Ms King says it is not clear if the money represents savings or cuts, and HBL has insisted such information does not exist.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says the document is not about cuts, only savings. He says there has been no secretiveness and the matter is a political beat-up.

However, the senior doctors' union says there is uneasiness among district health boards about the savings programme, including over the amount they are contributing to HBL to manage it.

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists also has worries about how robust or feasible some savings projections are.

Executive director Ian Powell says greater transparency is needed.

HBL would not be interviewed but said talk about cuts was absolute rubbish.