Backing our health services to combat COVID-19

  • Hon Dr David Clark
  • Dedicated $500 million fund to protect New Zealanders’ health
  • Nearly doubling resources for Public Health Units, specifically to increase capacity for contact tracing
  • $32 million for extra intensive care capacity and equipment at hospitals
  • $50 million in support for GPs and primary care, and $20 million to improve video conferencing and telehealth consultations
  • $20 million for more Healthline capacity

The Government’s commitment to protecting New Zealanders’ health is being backed by an initial dedicated $500 million fund to strengthen our health services to fight and contain COVID-19.

“New Zealand’s public health response to the global COVID-19 outbreak has been world-leading. By taking some hard decisions and acting decisively, we’ve ensured we are well placed to combat COVID-19,” Health Minister David Clark said.

“Our strong health response is also our frontline economic response. We know the best way to protect the economy is by containing the virus. That’s why from the very start we set out to go hard, and go early, and do everything we can to protect the public’s health.

“As a Government we’ve made record investments in health in Budgets 2018 and 2019 – but more is now needed in the face of this global pandemic.

“We know we will see more cases of COVID-19 arrive here. So we must plan and prepare for that reality,” David Clark said.

Cabinet has immediately unlocked $235 million of the new fund to strengthen health capacity, with a particular focus on public health measures.

“Staff in our Public Health Units are our first line of defence against infectious diseases, but they don’t have the resources they need to handle a pandemic. So we’re putting more than $40 million immediately into public health, with a strong emphasis on contact tracing.

“That nearly doubles our current annual spending for the current year of $46.7 million on core public health services that are so vital for containing COVID-19.

“Primary care – our general practices, nurse practitioners, iwi and Pacific health providers and others – are also at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. So we’re investing $50 million more in primary care, including funding for Community Based Assessment Centres, equipment and logistics.

“A further $20 million will be invested in improving the capacity of general practice and community health providers to use technology such as video conferencing and telehealth to conduct consultations.

“More resources will also go into Healthline, which is currently handling more than 5000 calls per day. Healthline has already boosted staffing by more than a hundred – this extra $20 million will mean more doctors and nurses can be hired to provide clinical advice over the phone to deal with the unprecedented level of demand.

“This will help ensure people can get the right advice and information they need when they need it.

“These targeted and immediate investments will significantly strengthen our ability to respond to COVID-19.

“There will be further announcements to come, including what we’re doing to support our older people, who we know are a potentially vulnerable group. Their health and welfare is a priority.

“This package makes sure that health services are there for those who need them the most. We have a duty of care to all New Zealanders, and particularly to vulnerable Kiwis who are most at risk,” Dr Clark said.