On 7 June about 70 primary health care professionals had the opportunity to question MPs from across the political spectrum at the 2017 General Practice Leaders Forum Primary Health Care Summit. The political representatives were Simon O’Connor (National), David Clark (Labour), Julie Anne Genter (Greens) and Ria Bond (New Zealand First).
Former veteran political journalist Linda Clark facilitated the event, which was held in Wellington, and encouraged the audience to question the panellists saying “It’s very early in the election season and it seems that health is very much under reported and under noticed. This time (of the election cycle) is your opportunity as experts and representatives of the people you work with to elevate the issues and their concerns.
Primary health funding, equitable access, the GP shortage and the role of DHBs in primary health care were some of the key issues raised, with a call for structural change from many.
Mr O’Connor said he didn’t think that primary health care should be uncoupled from DHBs, but that the Government knew the primary care sector felt it wasn’t getting its fair share of funding.
Dr Clark said the amount of funding passing through DHBs to the primary sector was now one third of the total funding, while it has been half the total at the end of the last Labour Government.
Ms Bond spoke of her own frustrations as a parent in Invercargill struggling to get access to health care and support. “New Zealand First is considering how we can better change the structure to fund our communities,” she said.
Ms Genter said the Government needs to build more social and affordable housing and address issues such as tenancy protection. “The Government didn’t achieve the reduction in rheumatic fever they targeted and they dropped the target! They haven’t addressed the issues that lead to these illnesses. There is a lot of evidence that good social policy can address inequality.
Ms Clark told the audience that in her years of being involved in elections, the issues in health had changed very little. “The difference this time is that we have a crisis in mental health. These good folk are working at the coalface every day helping people in their most vulnerable moments. There have been a lot of elections where we have been saying the same thing, so how can this election be different?” she asked.