Not over budget… under-resourced

What does fiscal restraint look like? And who does it help?

With the next budget just around the corner, Health Sector Workers Network wanted to lay some facts and perspective out into the ether.

There is a phrase which goes “We are not over budget, we are under resourced”. This phrase encapsulates the fight in the health sector at the moment for better pay, safer conditions and a thriving health system that supports everybody.

Currently in New Zealand the emphasis has been on fiscal restraints and statements like “we need to operate within allocated funding” or “budget responsibility rules” seem to be all we hear. This is not a socially healthy narrative in the context of growing unmet need.

Right now health workers are considering striking and calling for better conditions in the health sector. Considering this, people need to remember a few things when the media cycle continues to turn.

1) When District Health Boards are having budget deficit blowouts. See here and here. This is because they have not been funded properly. A budget deficit means underfunding. They are not over budget, they are under-resourced.

2) The funding problems in health are by design. Under the guise of ‘efficiency gains’ the previous National government underfunded health — they called it “Living within our means”. This was a programme of underfunding. It was intentional.

3) Based on last year’s CTU figures following the budget — the 2018/2019 health budget needed to find an extra $2 billion to restore the value of funding lost due to underfunding. This is on top of any additional funding for new services or projects or wage increases.

4) Prior National coming to power in 2008, the New Zealand health system and society at large contained significant disparities and inequality. Unmet need runs deeper than the last 10 years.

5) Labour has self-imposed “budget responsibility rules” — which essentially restricts any significant increase to budget funding. This mean that there is very little room to meet the need created by National’s underfunding, a history of inequality and the demands for substantial improvement to health sector worker conditions.

What does this mean?

If health sector workers want to make change, they need to be willing to fight for change. This means strikes, struggle and collective action.

We are not over budget, we are under-resourced. Break the narrative. Build a healthy system and a healthy society.

In solidarity,

Health Sector Workers Network

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