Wanganui Chronicle

Columns
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Ensuring New Zealanders can access better, sooner and more convenient healthcare remains the Government's No 1 funding priority.

The latest quarterly data shows that the Whanganui District Health Board is performing very well across a number of areas especially in regard to early cancer treatment, where we're ranked No 1 in New Zealand, and improved access to elective surgery, ranked No 5.

In fact throughout the country, district health boards are performing more elective surgeries, surpassing the health target by 8 per cent.

People are spending less time waiting in emergency departments with 94 per cent of patients admitted, discharged or transferred from there within six hours.

Immunisation coverage for our children remains at 93 per cent and more people are being supported to make healthy changes to their lifestyles by quitting smoking.

Access to elective surgery is a priority for this Government.

As part of Budget 2016 we invested an extra $96 million over four years to ensure more New Zealanders receive the surgery they need.

Health boards are working hard to continue to improve the services they deliver. The target for more heart and diabetes checks was again met this quarter with 91 per cent. While it will remain an accountability measure for health boards, this is the last quarter that the more heart and diabetes checks target will be reported as it has been replaced by the new childhood obesity health target.

The new health target will see 95 per cent of obese children identified in the Before School Check (B4 School Check) programme offered a referral to the services they and their family need to support healthy eating and activity. By December 2017, over 4000 children a year are expected to be supported to achieve a healthy weight.

Focusing on results, we are working towards specific, measurable targets to improve the lives of families, particularly the most vulnerable. These latest health target results are a credit to our health workforce throughout the country.

Of course a healthy economy is vital to New Zealand's prosperity, too. It helps to provide for the ongoing funding of our first-class essential services including public schools, institutions of higher education and our hospitals.

The good news is that National's programme is delivering tangible results. At the moment, we're among the 10 fastest-growing economies in the developed world, and the Reserve Bank expects this trend to continue with the latest forecasts showing it is expecting economic growth of 3.4 per cent in each of the next two years.

Statistics New Zealand reported last week that the official unemployment rate had dropped to 5.1 per cent in the June quarter, down from 5.2 per cent in March, and down also from 5.5 per cent a year earlier.

The central bank is forecasting unemployment will continue to fall to 4.4 per cent by March 2018, which is great.

What it all means is that 105,000 extra jobs have been created in our economy in the past year and 251,000 extra jobs have been created in the past three years.

At the same time, the average annual wage has risen about 25 per cent to over $58,000 since National came into office that's more than double the rate of inflation over the same period (11.9 per cent). The average annual wage is expected to reach almost $63,000 by 2020.

By any measure, these are positive results.