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News of the Day ... In Perspective

05/21/2006

Waiting lists shortened in New Zealand—by returning patients to GP

The New Zealand government has decided that patients should be on a public specialist waiting list only if sick or disabled enough to qualify for treatment within 6 months.

As of March, the Waitemata and central Auckland District Health Boards had more than 8,000 patients waiting more than 6 months either to see a specialist for a first assessment, or to have treatment. The health ministry wants the total reduced by 6,000, under the threat of losing $3 million per year in funding.

The “access bar” to publicly funded elective services, such as care for rotten teeth, heart disease, or gall bladder troubles, needs to be raised further because funding has not kept pace with the needs of an aging population. The “critical group that drives services” is aged 65 to 75.

About 10,000 to 14,000 patients per year are removed from waiting lists and referred back to their GP.

The government “is only interested in culling waiting lists instead of trying to have more patients seen or treated,” writes health spokesman Tony Ryall (Martin Johnson, New Zealand Herald 5/17/06)

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