Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Immigration and the New Zealand health system
The case of the tourist with highly infectious tuberculosis is just one of hundreds of cases of patients from overseas who arrive here and cause a financial strain on the New Zealand health system. District health boards are also understood to be frustrated that immigration officials grant residency to certain foreigners despite the huge cost to the health system. The Auckland District Health Board spent $16.2 million on "non-eligible patients" in 2007 - up from $12m three years ago - and has $2.1m in unpaid debt. Similarly, Counties Manukau DHB has spent $3.4m in 2007, up from $1.8m in 2006, and is owed about $1.1m while the Waitemata board is owed more than $900,000. Chief executives from these DHBs declined to comment on the burden foreign patients place on hospital finances. But an Auckland Hospital insider said that many of the patients in her waiting room are from overseas. Many of them are older with chronic health problems and are often admitted shortly after arriving in the country. "Once any immigrants are granted residency, they are entitled to everything and anything, just like any other New Zealand taxpayer. It's a real burden on the health system. We all mutter about it but we have a job to do. We have to take care of them. But it makes you wonder how the hell these sick people were allowed in?"