Budget 2020 includes $750 million in capital investment for DHBs, in addition to nearly $4 billion for DHB operational expenditure the Government announced on Tuesday, Marc Daalder reports

The Government’s announcement on Tuesday that the Budget would put $4.3 billion into the health system wasn’t exhaustive. Budget 2020 tops up that investment by $1.3 billion, more than half of which is slated for capital investment in DHBs.

The $750 million capital spend “will support the delivery of safe and appropriate healthcare by providing facilities, infrastructure and technology that can appropriately meet current and future demand,” the Budget states.

In addition to the capital spend and previously announced funding: $3.9 billion for DHBs over four years; $500 million to boost the health system ahead of Covid-19; a $160 million top-up for PHARMAC; $282.5 million to address the backlog in elective surgeries that built up during the lockdown and $124.5 million to address demographic changes and increased costs as the backlog is dealt with – the Government is also putting $832.5 million into Disability Support Services (DSS) and another $37 million into lab testing capacity and support for ambulance, aged care, disability and hospice services.

“Investment in the health sector has never been more critical,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.

“Budget 2020 invests extensively in areas that we know will make a difference to the wellbeing of New Zealanders. I expect that we will provide further support to our health sector in the coming months.”

The disability support investment will take the form of $104 million for the 2019/2020 fiscal year and an extra $182.2 million for the subsequent four years.

“This initiative will maintain services for people with long-term physical, intellectual and/or sensory impairment who require ongoing support, by funding price and volume pressures in response to increased demand on Disability Support Services (DSS). These services help disabled people live with the same dignity expected to be available to all New Zealanders,” the Budget states.

Additional funding has also been signalled for specific services.

Maternity services will receive an extra $57 million over four years to “help attract, retain and engage the primary community maternity workforce,” the Budget says.

Another $8 million will be put into ensuring women aged 45 to 69 have access to breast screening.

“This initiative will address price and volume pressures faced by the National Breast Screening Programme, enabling additional women aged 45 to 69 to access breast screening services and to be screened on time,” the Budget says.

Emergency road ambulance services will receive an extra $31 million to expand capacity and create more jobs during the economic crisis.

The Cancer Control Agency, which the Government set up last year in response to repeated complaints about lack of consistency in cancer care across DHB lines, will receive $7.67 million a year for the next four years.

Little of the new health funding directly deals with the pandemic, although hundreds of millions have been spent in recent weeks shoring up testing, contact tracing and other public health functions.

Among the line items which address Covid-19 are $37 million for testing, a $25 million capital spend to redevelop ESR’s Porirua headquarters and $40 million for strengthened vaccination regimes and responding to the measles outbreak.

Under the latter, a new measles immunisation campaign will be carried out and the age of initial vaccination will be moved forward.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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