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Health funding cut sparks community action

Jun 7th, 2012 | By | Category: Lead Story, News

HEALTHY FIGHT: Debbie Leyland, left, and Mandy Winther who are battling for NUHS funding.

PEOPLE angered by cuts to front line health services are taking their protest to the next Capital and Coast District Health Board meeting.

Cuts to the Newtown Union Health Service (NUHS) funding has sparked the anger.

In response to the cut, the United Community Action Newtown group formed and have already collected about 250 signatures to present to the Capital and Coast District Health Board tomorrow.

“There’s a lot of fear about these cuts, the prices will be going up, people will end up in A and E,” says Debbie Leyland (pictured right), a member of the action group and a patient who has used the NUHS for over a decade.

“It’s turning the service into an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff situation.”

The group aims to bring public attention to the cuts, lobby board members and organise practical actions like protests and flyers, she says.

Pressure from the group may persuade board members to reconsider their stance, says David Choat, a board member who has strongly opposed the funding cut.

“We are accountable to the public and if the board see a strong show of support they may start to rethink their position.”

The NUHS will not be able to continue important community health services, like the outreach services to council flats, midwife, asthma and youth sexual health programmes, staff told Radio New Zealand in April.

This is unfair to people with health and economic problems, says Ms Leyland.

“If the Strathmore service closes, who is going to come to the Newtown clinic? The cost of transport, with the patient fees and the rising prescription costs means a lot of people will fall through the cracks,” she says.

Mr Choat says the Ministry of Health and the board’s austerity agenda means they are failing the community in this funding cut.

“It’s remiss of the minister to not see the effects of this. I’ve failed to convince the board to reconsider, I hope the community is more convincing,” he says.

The NUHS is a primary health care organisation that provides physical and mental health services for people on low incomes.

On their 20 year anniversary, they were applauded for being an exceptionally successful model of the primary health care approach, by the then Governor General Anand Satyanand, according to the Capital and Coast District Health Board website.

“The NUHS have such an excellent service and they work almost 24/7, I have to do something because they’ve done so much for me,” says Mandy Winther (pictured far right), a member of the action group and patient.

The group are planning other actions before the board’s annual plan is signed off by Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, at the end of June.

A Capital and Coast District Health Board spokesperson did not respond to Newswire questions by the time of publication.

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