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Austerity rips through local health services


Health ProtestA protest inside and outside of the Capital and Coast District Health board this morning is demanding the reinstatement of funding for Newtown Union Health.

The government claims that it is not running an austerity budget, but the reality is that funding cuts to local services like Newtown Union Health and others across the country mean that there is a significant reduction in the services being offered.

Spokeswoman for United Community Action Network (UCAN) Debby Leyland said that 'the cuts were happening across the board and the vulnerable were going to once again fall through the cracks.'  The CCDHB is afraid of further protests and has denied the ability of UCAN to speak at the start of their board meeting usually reserved for the public.

'At Newtown Union' she said, '$278,000 of their budget was cut and the waiting list to see a doctor was now three weeks. The crisis so bad that when some people come in with a both a physical and mental issue to discuss, doctors and nurse practicioners have only time to address one of the issues.'

'The entire midwifery service has been cut from Newtown Union,' she said.

There is signficant evidence to support the view that cutting funding from Newtown Union will simply shift the problems onto the Hospital across the road.

The Nurses Union were conducing a minute of silence in solidarity with the UCAN protest.

During the meeting, a hospital doctor gave a presentation about diabeties care. In it, he repeatedly mentioned the groundbreaking work of the Newtown Union doctor, Ben Grey. The fanastic work being done by Dr Grey and others at Newtown Union is being rewarded with funding cuts that will rip the guts out of the service.

These cuts to services cannot be seen in isolation and must be placed within the larger context of the slashing of services to the most vulnerable in society, and the building of new prisons.

As an aside, the people who went inside the meeting were attended by hospital security, and this Indymedia reporter was told no photographs were allowed, despite this being a public meeting with elected officials.


Say no to "State-Owned Enterprises", "Crown Research Institutes"

The strategy here is the same as in the education system. First you shut down lots of community-based providers (schools or health clinics), and cram all the people who need them into increasingly crowded and overloaded central providers (merged super-schools and major hospitals). Then you cut the funding to those centralised providers, forcing them to do more with less. Then, when educational or health outcomes start to become catastrophic, you blame the public provision of these services, and call for "market-based solutions".

What this actually means in practice is "public-private partnerships" like charter schools and health insurance companies, where the public still pays in tax dollars for the services through state subsidies, but the private companies who receive these subsidies scrape off a big chunk of those tax dollars as profits. Also, since the state retains the ultimate responsibility for the provision of services, these profiteers can just bugger off if the profits aren't high enough. This leaves governments in the unenviable position of having to either ramp up the subsidies to keep the private providers in place, or let them walk, and painfully rebuild public services from scratch.

These state-corporate ("corporate welfare" or "crony capitalist") solutions are an insult to libertarians of both the "left" and the "right". If we're going to have public provision of services, paid for by taxes, they should be run as not-for-profit entities. If private companies want to offer these services in a free market, they should do so by raising capital and winning customers, not by living on endless state subsidies.

Say no to "State-Owned Enterprises", "Crown Research Institutes" or "Public-Private Partnerships"!