Public hospitals in New Zealand will now use private sector facilities in a “smarter” way to better meet the health needs of the country.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said that the existing protocols for District Health Boards (DHB) have been amended to enable them to work more co-operatively with private hospitals to treat more patients in their districts.

“Now DHBs can contract with a private provider to deliver a set number of procedures over several years to complement their delivery, and negotiate a better price and more operations for patients,” Ryall said.

A new protocol has been brought in clarifying that there cannot be cross subsidy from public to private hospitals.

“In recent years we’ve seen a gradual increase in hospitals contracting with private health facilities. This often happened near the end of the financial year when DHBs were falling behind in elective surgery,” Ryall said.