• Neil Kirton
Associate Minister of Health

Associate Minister of Health, Neil Kirton, tonight emphasised that the final decision on the contract for cardio-thoracic services in the Canterbury region rested with the Coalition Government, after consultation between the respective Health Ministers.

It has never been in doubt that Christchurch would get a unit - that has always been the position of the New Zealand First party and also this government.

The issue was over who would provide that service - the local Canterbury CHE or a mixture of the Otago CHE and private interests. The Southern RHA have chosen the latter.

That decision now requires the consent of the Minister of Health after consultation with the coalition partner. The issues that I will be raising will be centred upon public safety, the best possible health outcomes and the future fiscal risk to the Crown. I must stress that no final approval can be formally provided until that process is complete, said Mr Kirton.

Mr Kirton said that his personal views on the contracting out of public services to private agencies are well known and understood. However, this is not my decision - I can only attempt to place relevant arguments before the Minister and Cabinet.

Mr Kirton said that the threat of legal action to the SRHA decision cannot be under-estimated...which is why the policymakers in Wellington will need to carefully appraise the SRHA decision and all other relevant information.

Finally, both NZ First and myself want what is best for Christchurch and Canterbury patients. That aim will continue to drive my future deliberations.