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New Zealand’s Health System: The Facts

Whether you love it or hate it, New Zealand’s health system is a vital part of life, without it and the countless number of people who spend their time making sure it works optimally we’d be in a sticky situation.


During 2019 and 2020’s financial year it took $20.5 billion to keep our health system running, which was only 9.74 percent of our gross domestic product. Compare this to countries such as the US (16.77) and Germany (11.70) and we might be looking a bit low. Now as we all know the health system is stretched pretty tightly, with this issue comes the problem of priority. If we look at the straight facts, if each of us got equal health care, we’d all have exactly $4000 of health care given to us. Here lies the issue, which “healthy” person loses their $4000, so that someone who is dying can get the medical treatment they need? And this runs throughout the system. 

One such system that is increasingly becoming an issue is our mental health one. The fact is our stats show mental health cases rising, as of today at least 21 percent of New Zealanders will experience a mental disorder and the system just can’t cope. I’ll be the first to raise my hand to say I’ve been swept under the rug and thrown some antidepressants because the system has to prioritize those that visually appear to be at higher risk. Is this anyone’s fault? I don’t believe so, but it is one of many issues that should be viewed carefully.


Another part of the system that will continuously need to grow is elderly care. As our population grows we will continue to have more of the elderly needed care. Every year 2.62 percent of our GDP goes to the elderly, compare this to America (5.70 percent of their total GDP) and the UK (4.8 percent of their total GDP), and we might be looking a bit short.


Now we’ve all had to deal with constant numbers being yelled at us over the past few years, number of case, number of hospitalisations and number of ICU spaces but how many beds can our system cater to? The answer is about 13000, a scaringly low number given how bad coronavirus could’ve been. One “fun” fact for you: if every single person in New Zealand got sick and needed a hospital bed, you’d be sharing your bed with about 384 other people, cosy huh?


So there’s a few facts for you about our system, what it shows us is there is only so much care to go around. So the next time your getting frustrated at the lack of care received by your nurse, doctor or hospital, know it isn’t their fault personally, they are only working with the numbers they’ve been given, we need to watch out for our carers because if they all bugger off to Australia where the pay is good, we’re going to find ourselves in a bit of a pickle.