• Jim Bolger
Prime Minister

Denis Woods and members of the Board, Peter Goldup, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I take great pleasure in being here today for the opening of the new Outpatients Ward; part of the ongoing redevelopment work here at the hospital.

I am certain that both staff and patients alike will greatly appreciate the new theatre facility, endoscopy suite and self-contained outpatient clinic.

The patients will now know exactly where to find the services they require, which hasn't - I understand - always been the case.

It is good to see work like this taking place because it shows that, no matter what the critics may say, we are upgrading our health care facilities in New Zealand today.

I thought I would take a few minutes today to discuss the changing nature of health care - of which this development is a very good example.

We, as a Government, are determined that everyone will benefit from the wonderful developments which we are now seeing in medical technology and the possibilities of today's new pharmaceuticals.

This required change.

We knew that many people would view changes in something as basic as health care with deep and genuine trepidation.

And so it has proved to be.

That is only human.

If you are living in a rural area, for instance, and your local hospital reduces the range of services it offers, you understandably feel less secure.

Although the security you felt before may not have been well founded, for the service on offer may not have been of a standard we would expect today.

As both our society and medical practise changed, our health system had to change also.

We had to develop a system that would give New Zealanders world-class care while ensuring that the billions of dollars we are spending each year on health is spent to best advantage.

This new facility is an excellent example of the progress being made.

Since we came to office we have increased health spending by $1 billion.

We accept that if we want a robust nation we have to invest robustly in one.

This has had a beneficial impact on the lives of many thousands of New Zealanders, more of whom are now getting treatment than ever before.

For example, since we came to office cataract surgery is up 33 per cent, knee surgery is up 53 per cent, and heart and lung procedures are up 129 per cent.

Over the next three years an extra $130 million will be spent to reduce waiting lists for people needing non-urgent hospital treatment.

As the recent Economic and Fiscal Update showed we are, with present policies, projected to spend another $600 million on health care by the year 2000.

And I have little doubt that as long as we maintain strong economic performance the final figure will be much higher still.

We have also recently isolated four critical areas where really dramatic progress can be made: they are child, mental and Maori health, along with a variety of prevention programmes.

These are our immediate health priorities, but they do not represent the complete picture.

The complete picture is that of a health service that will care for the physical and mental needs of all New Zealanders, at every stage in their lives.

A service that will give all of us access to the latest and most effective medical technology and medicines.

A service that will be sensitive to the special needs of people of all ages, of both sexes, from all walks of life, and from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds.

A service that will deliver an equal level of well-being for all.

I congratulate Good Health Wanganui for building the new facility.

I wish those of you who will work in it well - no occupation is more important than helping people get well.

And I wish the patients who will be treated here a speedy return to good health.

I now take pleasure in declaring the new Outpatients Ward open.