[Sitting date: 28 June 2012. Volume:681;Page:3502. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the
Minister of Health: What progress has been made towards implementing free after-hours medical care for under-sixes?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health)
: Excellent progress. Free after-hours care for under-sixes has been operating in Greater Auckland since September last year and operating in the Waikato since 2 June—this month.
Barbara Stewart: Can he explain why details of the funding for the free after-hours care for under-sixes, set to begin on 1 July, are not yet publicly available?
Hon TONY RYALL: Yes, they are publicly available. I have made comments on a number of occasions that the $7 million being put aside for this is being funded by drugs coming off patent.
Barbara Stewart: Why have very few rural practices been involved in discussions with their district health boards and primary health organisations about the extension of the under-sixes policy to after-hours care, according to a report published in the latest
New Zealand Doctor?
Hon TONY RYALL: That report is wrong. I know that there are significant numbers of rural networks that have been involved in discussions, including Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, MidCentral, Wairarapa, Nelson-Marlborough, West Coast, and South Canterbury.
Barbara Stewart: What does he say to Dr O’Keefe, executive director of General Practice New Zealand, who says that the ministry’s guidelines for the implementation of this policy do not address matters such as clawbacks or the difference between types of care?
Hon TONY RYALL: I would say that she has missed the point completely. The fact is that this is about providing better access for children aged 5 and under to after-hours general practitioner care. It is a commitment that the Government made before the last election, and it is a very good preventive measure that many people in the health service are welcoming.
Hon Maryan Street: Will free after-hours medical care for under-sixes be available throughout New Zealand; if so, how does he intend the service to be provided in rural areas where there is only one general practitioner available?
Hon TONY RYALL: It is the Government’s intention that it should be available across New Zealand. We have to remember, though, that this is not a compulsory scheme. We have had to negotiate this with individual after-hours centres and general practitioner networks. For those who do not want to participate, we cannot force them to. But I think excellent progress is being made.