Extra ICU funding finally, but don’t hold your breath

Health Minister Andrew Little has finally acknowledged that his failure to build ICU beds in the past 18 months needs to be fixed, with the announcement of funding for capital spend on ICU beds, says National Party Health Spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“The sector will be pleased with the extra funding for ICU beds announced today which will increase protection for the health system if COVID-19 cases escalate.

“Andrew Little is wrong when he says we have avoided overrun hospitals “through” good planning. In fact, we have barely avoided overrun hospitals “despite” poor planning and at a cost of 100,000 people having important procedures cancelled.

“The reality is that Auckland has had no new adult ICU beds for 18 months. In September, Auckland ICU urgently called out for 30 ICU nurses from across the country for just eight active cases. The only reason ICU numbers are fewer than expected is because ICU COVID-19 case numbers are being hidden on general wards managed with non-invasive ventilation methods where normally they would be in an ICU.

“When these cases are taken into account, the scale of failing to prepare is laid bare.

“North Shore, Tauranga, Christchurch and Waitematā will welcome the funding, but I also worry about smaller DHBs with fewer ICU beds, large unvaccinated Māori populations and summer holiday flows such as in Northland, Lakes and Tairāwhiti DHBs.

“If the failed build of mental health facilities by Andrew Little is anything to go by, I wouldn’t be holding my breath for new ICU facilities any time soon.”