Dr David Clark has been announced as the new Minister of Health. The Dunedin North MP and former Treasury analyst will be joined by associate ministers of health, Labour’s Jenny Salesa and Green party health spokesperson Julie Anne Genter.

It is unknown at this stage who will have responsibility for aged care. NZ First’s Tracey Martin has been named Minister for Seniors.

In an earlier interview with INsite, Clark said one of Labour’s key intentions was to restore the shortfall in health funding.

“We have said we will meet future cost-pressures and backfill the $1.7 billion over time.  Some of this will come to Aged Care,” he said.

He also indicated that Labour will bring palliative care into the core public health service, and “will fund it properly whether in a hospice, in aged care, or in the community”.

Clark also said they want to closely examine how district health boards are funding older persons.

“There has been a real issue of district health boards squeezed by funding constraints, adding criteria to home and community support services to constrain client and service growth. As well as this, DHBs have been dipping into other allocations to pay for expenditure in overstretched areas such as mental health services.”

Clark’s ultimate goal for aged care is to deliver an “appropriately resourced sector that provides real choice to elderly people facing decisions about housing, care, and independence”.

It will be interesting to see how Clark addresses the issues resulting from the pay equity settlement. The New Zealand Aged Care Association has identified pay equity as the most important topic for discussion with the new minister.

Clark believes the funding for the aged care sector should have been based on actual, not averaged data to avoid what he describes as “a crazy situation” that is seeing smaller providers fighting for survival.

Clark was born in Auckland and graduated from the University of Otago in 1996 with a BA and a Bachelor of Theology. He was a Presbyterian minister for three years before returning to the University of Otago to gain his PhD after which he was a Treasury analyst for three years then an advisor to then Labour cabinet minister David Parker in 2006-07 (under the Helen Clark Government). He returned to Dunedin in 2008 to become warden of Selwyn College until elected as MP for Dunedin North in 2011. On the resignation of longstanding health spokesperson Annette King he became Labour’s health spokesperson. The new Minister of Health has twice completed the New Zealand Ironman course at Taupo.

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