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The programme for the previous 5 years has been instrumental in establishing overseas referral committees, developing streamlined processes for referral of patients overseas, and developing systems to provide services closer to home countries, responding to immediate clinical needs from countries for clinical locum support and linking young Pacific clinicians with training pathways and providing mentoring and career development advice.


The Medical Treatment Scheme (MTS) operates within the wider context of the New Zealand's Regional Health Strategy which recognises that there is an inter-relationship between poverty and ill-health.  While the Health Strategy gives priority to supporting the development of primary and public healthcare services it is recognised that access to high level secondary or tertiary services can release the health burden from individuals and health services.  The ability to provide a curative function or reduce disability and dependence is a major consideration for improving access to services.

A number of reviews of the Medical Treatment Scheme (MTS) concluded that there was a continued rationale for providing specialist medical treatment for Pacific Island countries.  There was a justification for continued support on humanitarian grounds (without treatment people would die); based on New Zealand's historical, social and cultural relationships with Pacific countries and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) geographical focus on the Pacific region.  Support for the MTS is consistent with the mission of the New Zealand Aid Programme.

"The mission of the New Zealand Aid Programme is to support sustainable development in developing countries, in order to reduce poverty and to contribute to a more secure, equitable, and prosperous world"

Development experience has demonstrated a close inter-relationship between ill-health and poverty.  The MTS also addresses "poverty of opportunity given that Pacific Island countries lack the capacity to treat many conditions and most people are unable to afford access to overseas treatment.  While there is a need for Pacific Island countries to provide a comprehensive health care system for their populations, it is unrealistic for most of them given their size, isolation, limited health budget and lack of medical personnel and infrastructure for them to be able to offer the full range of high level secondary and tertiary services.

The Medical Treatment Scheme has been in operation for more than 30 years.  It has evolved from a distant scheme utilized primarily for referrals or eligible patients to health services in New Zealand to a broader focussed programme encouraging the mobilization of specialist services into countries through Visiting Clinical Services, an increased emphasis on capability and skill development through Visiting Clinical Services and an emphasis on extending and strengthening clinical networks, access to specialist advice and supporting the development of specialist clinical capacity within countries.