The Government has quietly cancelled extra funding for cochlear implants, despite a successful campaign for publicly-funded devices for every Kiwi who needed one.
Levin surf lifesaver Danielle McKay spearheaded the campaign after she waited three years for the surgery. She said the decision to slash the $6.5million funding boost was “shocking” and “disappointing.”
Health Minister David Clark refused to comment on the cut. But a spokesman confirmed that extra funding was not extended in this year’s Budget.
The Ministry of Health said there were 224 adults in line for a cochlear implant, and the average wait time was just over two years. But there are many more who still haven’t been officially accepted onto the cochlear programme.
I guess the Government needed the $6.5 million for free tertiary fees.
That was the position McKay, 23, found herself in last year, after three years of waiting for an implant. Despite a specialist telling her she had only a few months to save her hearing, when McKay contacted officials, she found she was only on a secondary review list.
So, the lifeguard launched a petition and teamed up with the YesWeCare health funding coalition. After she delivered the petition, with 26,643 signatures to Parliament, then Health Minister Jonathan Coleman stumped up an extra $6.5m in that year’s Budget.
It almost doubled the programme’s budget and allowed an extra 60 people to have the surgery. McKay underwent the procedure in October, although she had already gone completely deaf in one ear.
Now she’s furious others won’t get the same chance.
And she’s called on Clark to reconsider his decision. “No, it’s not right. It should be ongoing funding,” she said.
And the former Associate Health Minister comments:
As Associate Health Minister I launched cochlear implants programme in Wellington and saw the sensation and indescribable joy of people able to hear sounds and voices of their loved ones for often the first time. Extraordinary, and even more incredible that funding has been cut
— Peter Dunne (@honpeterdunne) July 7, 2018
It’s one thing not to provide extra funding in the first place, but to cut funding seems bizarre.