New Zealand is moving to clear a backlog of surgeries and procedures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic with a bumper funding pledge.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Health Minister David Clark announced new annual spending of $NZ980 million ($A918 million) on the country’s health system, or a nine per cent lift, would feature in the country’s budget, revealed in full on Thursday.
There is also a one-off boost of $NZ282 million ($A265 million), which will provide for 153,000 surgeries, procedures or scans.
“That’s our best estimate of the number of surgeries that will need to be done,” Dr Clark said.
New Zealand’s health services scrambled to dramatically reconfigure after the arrival of COVID-19 to Kiwi shores, forcing tens of thousands of people to put off their health needs.
In total, fewer than 100 Kiwis were hospitalised during the pandemic.
“The different abilities of governments around the world to respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important it is to have properly funded public services like our health system that New Zealanders are able to access,” Mr Robertson said.
“As a country we have historically under-invested in health. Budget 2020 continues this government’s record of tackling that legacy of neglect.”
The spending will add to the mammoth deficit expected in Thursday’s budget owing to record stimulus spending, but Mr Robertson said health was not an area where pennies could be clawed back.
“There are some things though you do not put on ice,” he said.
“They are more important than ever … we can’t afford not to do this.”
Dr Clark has endured a torrid two months after being caught breaching the lockdown rules on multiple occasions, which led to him offering his resignation as health minister to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Ms Ardern refused to accept it, saying the crisis was the wrong time to change ministers – a stance that left Dr Clark vulnerable at the end of the lockdown.
However on Tuesday morning, Ms Ardern used an interview with Radio NZ to guarantee his job into the future, effectively closing the book on a sorry chapter for the Dunedin North MP.