Closing Suicide Prevention Office among 134 job losses proposed at Health

A raft of changes ordered by the Government proposes axing the Suicide Prevention Office and other specialist roles at Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health.

Proposed changes announced by the Ministry today could see nearly one in five positions – 134 roles – scrapped as part of the Government’s drive to fund its tax cuts.

The Suicide Prevention Office was established in 2019 under recommendations of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction. The current proposal includes closing the office, reducing by half the number of staff working on suicide prevention and dispersing others across the Ministry. The role of Director for the Office is proposed to be axed along with the Senior Advisor Māori.

“The Government should be investing more in suicide prevention, so we stop more families from suffering the tragedy of suicide, not making these cold-hearted and dangerous cuts,” said Duane Leo, National Secretary for the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.

“This was an Office that was set up for a good reason, it developed the first national Suicide Prevention Action Plan and was working closely with communities experiencing high rates of suicide.”

Other specialist teams in the Clinical, Community and Mental Health Directorate have also been earmarked for possible downsizing. In addition, the Ministry proposes downgrading the drug checking services function and the loss of people doing important work in mental health and addictions.

“This is core work in a functioning health system and the impact will be felt across the country. We should not be losing more specialist health workers in the Ministry of Health.

“The proposals to axe the Suicide Prevention Office and specialist health workers in mental health make a mockery of the Government’s new portfolio of Minister for Mental Health. We call on Minister Matt Doocey to overturn these cuts which are simply being made to fund tax cuts that New Zealand cannot afford.

“We know this is an anxious time for many dedicated health workers. Their work, including advising Ministers and supporting our health system overall is vital. How at this time of stress in the health system, does it make sense for the Government to drive such damaging cuts at the Ministry?

“We have an ageing population and face the increasing cost of medical technology – all that requires a well-resourced Ministry to provide the expert advice and support, so we make the best decisions for an effective health system.

“Today is another sad day for the public services New Zealanders rely on and for dedicated public service workers who want to make a difference for communities across the motu.

“The Government has made a clear choice – it has the money to invest in a public service that meets the challenges we face today and tomorrow, but would rather give $15 billion away in tax cuts,” said Duane Leo.

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