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Pay deal swallows much of health increase

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/05/2017
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says New Zealand's suicide rate of about 500 a year is too high. © Getty Images Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says New Zealand's suicide rate of about 500 a year is too high.

The government is touting its top-up of the health budget as the sector's biggest increase in 11 years, but a large chunk of it is taken up by the pay settlement for care and disability workers.Health is the biggest item in the government's $80.5 billion spend in the 2017-18 year and Thursday's budget allocates an extra $879m to take it to $16.8b this year.

The package, over a four-year period, would pour an extra $3.9b into health, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says.

Government critics have long been calling for more money for cash-strapped district health boards and the figures are unlikely to appease them.

The $3.9b extra health funding includes $1.54b it previously to set aside to increase the pay for 55,000 care and disability workers following their successful court case against chronically low wages.

Dr Coleman said DHBs would get an extra $1.76b over four years to invest in services, improve access and cope with rising costs and populations.

New health spending in the budget includes:

*A $224m boost, over four years, to the $1.4b mental health spend, which includes $100m for innovative proposals and $100m for DHBs to support local mental health and addiction services

*An extra $205m over four years, for disability support services, most of which will go towards community-based home care, personal care and residential care

*An extra $38.5m, over four years, for expanding a bowel cancer-screening programme which got $39.3m in last year's budget. The programme is eventually expected to screen 700,000 people every two years.

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