The Government’s failure to reach an agreement on pay rises for 27,000 nurses means that strike action will commence in less than 48 hours as a result of the Government significantly raising expectations in Opposition, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The effect of this strike on patients and the wider health sector will be extremely significant. All elective surgeries will be cancelled and only life-preserving services will take place in our hospitals for 24 hours.
“The elective surgeries that have been and are being cancelled in preparation for the strike include cardiac surgery, surgeries for cancer and joint replacements. These patients may have been waiting some time for their procedures and will be devastated to learn that they are no longer going to take place.
“This will have a significant impact on patients and their families who would have made arrangements, taken time off work and otherwise emotionally prepared for their scheduled surgery only to have it cancelled.
“It’s clear that nurses were unhappy with the Government simply shifting the deck chairs on the original offer and they have now decided to push for more Government money.
“The nurses were also frustrated that the Government entered the facilitation process saying ‘that’s all the money there is’ and this is the effect of it. This move did not reflect good faith bargaining and it is now unclear how the situation will be resolved.
“The DHBs requested a reconvening of facilitation, however, NZNO has decided that due to the lack of additional funding to support an improved offer this is not appropriate.
“The Government has completely lost control of the process due to its mishandling. Because the Government restricted the facilitation process it is now likely to be unavailable to aid in resolving the negotiations.
“It is unclear where the process goes from here now that facilitation seems to be unavailable. The Government must regain control of the situation and settle with the nurses as soon as possible to minimise the impact of this strike on patients and the sector.”
The impact of nurse’s strike action will be felt from tomorrow even though the Government is still claiming that the strike may be averted, National Party spokesperson for Health Michael Woodhouse says.
“Health Minister David Clark not only had the audacity to stare down the nurses over their last offer but the Workplace Relations Minister Ian Lees-Galloway claimed in select committee today that these strikes are still likely to be averted.
“Let’s be realistic here. The effects of this strike will be felt from tomorrow. There has been advice that all elective services will need to be cancelled in advance so the wards are as empty as possible in order to transition to the life preserving service provision level for the July 5 strike.
“Elective surgeries that are likely to be cancelled include cardiac surgery, surgeries for cancer and joint replacements. These patients may have been waiting some time for their procedures and will be devastated to learn that they are no longer going to take place.
“The Minister must clarify whether those patients will be pushed back with a knock on effect on all elective surgeries or if those who miss out will be bumped to the bottom of the list.
“Due to the fact that the next day of striking is only a week later, these complex surgeries may be postponed and by more than a fortnight causing considerable disruption.
“While the main impact of this strike is on the patients, the health sector will be forking out considerable sums of money for staff rostered while elective procedures are cancelled for up to a fortnight.
“We are now at zero hour; unless the strike is averted now patients will suffer even if it doesn’t go ahead.”
Labour’s reprehensible demonisation of foreigners prior to the election has been laid bare by confirmation today that its promise to slash migration was nothing but a cynical attempt to win votes from NZ First, National’s Judith Collins and Michael Woodhouse say.
“Prior to the election Labour cynically blamed foreigners for rising house prices, including through its infamous ‘Chinese-sounding surnames’ campaign, and it threatened to slash the number of migrants by up to 30,000 a year,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“All along employers and the National Party told them they were wrong and that we needed the skills and capital those migrants bring.
“Today Labour has admitted they were wrong when they said we needed to ‘take a breather’ and while we welcome the belated realisation, the fact is the changes announced today are nothing more than a branding exercise.
“Construction sector occupations were already on the skills shortage lists meaning it was already easier for construction workers to come here because National knew they were important all along.”
“The announcement comes after Housing Minister Phil Twyford yesterday told Parliament there were no plans to bring foreign tradespeople into New Zealand to work on KiwiBuild houses,” Ms Collins says.
“This indicates either an unwillingness to tell the truth or that Mr Twyford didn’t know his own policy or what his colleagues were doing.
“KiwiBuild has staggered from failure to failure and Mr Twyford has continued to show he has no idea what he’s doing.
“In the last few days he’s confirmed some KiwiBuild-backed apartments might be sold to foreigners, that they might be built by foreign flat-pack companies, that he’s been meeting with Chinese banks to fund them and now he says they’re going to be built by foreigners.
“This is a shameless climbdown and there’s nothing Kiwi left in KiwiBuild.”
The latest failure to reach an agreement on pay rises for 27,000 nurses brings strike action another step closer, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Nurses and DHBs held further mediation last night and failed to reach an agreement following the decision of nurses to reject the DHB’s latest offer.
“The nurses have not accepted the revised pay offer after this Government made it clear it is expecting them to accept the same overall pay packet they were originally unhappy with.
“Before nurses had the chance to decide on the original offer the Government, through the media, told them that the dollar figure on the offer would not shift, even though urgent negotiations were to take place – this is extremely poor form.
“After prioritising $2.8 billion for tertiary fees free and $1 billion for New Zealand First’s provincial slush fund the Government claimed it has ‘gone as far as [it] can in terms of extra Government money’ for nurses.
“This is not good enough. Patients, the New Zealand public and the wider health sector should not have to bear the burden of striking because the Government chose to prioritise election bribes over health.
“It now comes as no surprise that the nurses have rejected the rearranged offer and the ERA have been called in to try and reach an agreement.
“The Government raised expectations for wage increases across a number of sectors including in health and now, in the eleventh hour, the Government needs to find a way to meet these expectations for nurses.
“The situation is not looking good. The strike notice has been issued for the impending July 5th strike which is just eight days away with another notice for July 12 likely to be issued this week.
“The Government will have to do more than shuffle the numbers around to avoid disruptive strike action, especially if the ERA make a recommendation for settlement that is significantly higher than the current offer.”
The Government’s cancellation of the national health targets is a concerning step that will cost lives, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“These targets drove improvement in the areas that New Zealanders care about. Significant increases in the number of elective surgeries and immunisations, as well as faster cancer treatment and improved children’s health were all partially driven by these targets and the health sector’s commitment to them.
“Research shows our Shorter Stays in ED target which aimed to have 95 per cent of patients admitted, discharged or transferred from EDs around the country within six hours resulted in a 57 per cent reduction in the death rate of ED patients - saving around 700 lives a year.
“This target was put in place in 2009 after emergency physicians highlighted that the overcrowded hospital wards and EDs under Labour were costing lives.
“You can’t prove or improve what you don’t measure. Health Minister David Clark’s claim that more surgeries will be performed is easy to make when there will be no public measure of any increase or decrease in elective surgeries.
“The Government has also stopped reporting on the National Patient Flow project which has been underway since July 2014 and aimed to improve DHBs referral systems, administration processes, and communications with patients to better understand patient outcomes and unmet need.
“These targets not only let us see exactly the kind of difference the money we invested was making for real people, they also gave public servants a clear focus on what they needed to do to improve lives.
“The previous Labour Government poured money into the health system with minimal targeting and in some areas it went backwards. More than 35,000 people were culled from elective surgery waiting lists and elective surgery numbers actually dropped, despite funding increases.
“Health isn’t the only area that Labour has abolished targets in. They have also abandoned the whole of government Better Public Services targets. This Government is trying to avoid accountability by refusing to publish important information about the delivery of public services.
“The Government’s decision to abolish the health targets will cost lives if the focus and public scrutiny on better, faster healthcare in specific areas is lessened.”
The Health Minister today admitted he has been misleading the New Zealand public on health spending to hide his broken promises and to mask the fact that he did not deliver to the expectations he raised, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The Minister of Health David Clark confirmed to the health select committee today that the $8 billion campaign pledge was both equivocal and grossly misleading.
“The Government are using figures to make the previous Government’s record look as bad as possible when they didn’t deliver any more funding than National would have.
“They need to front up to the New Zealand public and explain why they set an expectation that there would be $8 billion more than the previous Government would have put into Vote Health.
“One of the consequences of the failure to meet the lofty expectations that the Minister has set is the deep disappointment among health professionals and the notice of strike action by nurses today.
“Even the Deputy Prime Minister admitted this to media when he conceded ‘perhaps the expectations that we’ve given them are too high.’
“The health sector lacks leadership by the Minister, and the examples the select committee heard of his appalling management of the Middlemore Hospital issues and his poor treatment of board members are a good indication that he is out of his depth.”
The Government must intervene urgently and ensure that mediation with nurses and midwives takes place to prevent industrial action so that patients get the care they need, National Party spokesperson for Health Michael Woodhouse says.
“The Health Minister, David Clark is admitting defeat by saying the Government has ‘gone as far as [it] can in terms of extra Government money’. This is unacceptable – he created the problem by promising the world and then prioritising billions in other spending and he now needs to fix it.
“He has both the ability and responsibility to address the hugely raised expectations and avoid industrial action.
“David Clark also appears to blame nurses for the situation by expressing his disappointment that they didn’t accept the offer. Clark is clearly out of touch with the mood of nurses and this is not good enough.
“There are 72 hours before a strike notice would be issued by NZNO before the first strike on the 5th of July and time is marching on. DHBs need to put contingency plans into place to ensure the continuity of emergency care and the deferment of elective surgeries.
“We are heading into winter, which is the busiest time of the year for hospitals, and the prospects of nurses’ strikes poses a significant risk for the public.
“The first thing Labour did when it came into Government was prioritise $1 billion for diplomats and $2.8 billion for tertiary students leaving little money to invest in health and other important areas.
“It is time for the Health Minister to make up for the raised expectations and avoid strike action which will have a hugely negative impact on the health of Kiwis.
“David Clark created this mess and the clock is ticking. The Government must avoid the potential strike action as soon as possible.”
Months of confusion and uncertainty about the Government’s immigration policy will barely be quelled by today’s half-baked announcement, National’s Immigration Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Businesses and the international education industry have been desperate for clarity and while the Government has finally provided some detail about its policy, what remains uncertain is exactly how big an impact the Government’s changes will have.
“Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has said they could result in $260 million in lost revenue, and that they could affect between 12,000 to 16,000 people – but has been unable to say exactly what the drop in annual net migration will be.
“He is therefore unable to say what impact the changes might have on the jobs of New Zealanders working in the international education industry which employs over 30,000 people.
“But what we can be certain about is that these changes will be ineffective in delivering the big election promises Labour made about significantly reducing the number of international students by between 15,000 and 22,000 a year.
“And that’s a good thing. National repeatedly told Labour that its election policy would gut New Zealand’s international education industry which is worth around $4.5 billion to our economy, and the changes our Government made to improve the quality of international education were already having an impact on reducing the number of students coming in.
“The changes announced today simply tinker around the edges to give the impression that Labour is delivering on its drum-beating call to cut immigration, while doing barely more than sticking the boot into one of our largest export earners.
“It’s clear that this is a broken promise – one that National welcomes, but it’s worth asking why Labour chose to stoke anti-immigrant sentiment prior to the election with promises it never intended to keep.”
Labour’s Budget is putting less new money into health this year than National added last year - with just $731 million extra compared to National’s $924 million boost in Budget 2017, National Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“It beggars belief that Labour set expectations so high for this Budget and not only have they not delivered on their promises, but they are delivering less than National would have if we were in Government.
“Over the next four years Labour will spend an additional $2.9 billion on health, compared to National’s Budget 2017 which spent an additional $3.9 billion.
“The Government has been railing about a so-called “crisis” in health but are fronting up with lower funding increases, less money for drugs, no Dunedin Hospital rebuild, and nothing extra for mental health.
“The reshuffle of funding between DHBs and Pharmac has resulted in the overall budget for medicines falling by $200 million over four years. This is a total abdication of Labour’s pre-election promise to spend more on new medicines including for rare diseases.
“David Clark’s Dunedin constituents will be hugely disappointed to see no money for constructing a new Dunedin Hospital. He will now struggle to meet his pledge to build it faster than the previous Government.
“New mental health initiatives have been cut following the axing of National’s $100 million social investment fund from Budget 2017. The only two mental health initiatives from this Budget are a $10 million youth pilot and the continuation of the already pledged health professionals for Canterbury and Kaikoura.
“And who can even say where the funding is for the National Cancer Agency, teen health checks, autism funding, free health checks for seniors or increased breast screening promised by the coalition parties in the lead up to the election.
“In spite of borrowing more and taxing more, Labour has somehow conspired to spending less on health than National did.
“The sector and the public will be disappointed when they realise the wrappers from the lolly scramble were empty.”
National’s Health spokesperson and Dunedin-based MP Michael Woodhouse welcomes the announcement of the site for the Dunedin Hospital rebuild and urges the Government to be honest with locals and the wider public about the plans for the rebuild.
“It is great news that the Government has confirmed that the site for the Dunedin Hospital rebuild as the old Cadburys site. This is an important part of the process and it will assure locals that this project continues moving along,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“This rebuild is important for the people of Dunedin and for the wider Southern region. That’s why the previous National Government began the rebuild process and appointed the Southern Partnership Group.
“When in Opposition the Health Minister criticised the Southern Partnership Group that not enough public consultation took place. It is now important that he ensures that there is clear consultation with the people who are going to be using the facility, including the health professionals and the patients.
“The Health Minister petitioned the previous Government to start the rebuild before the 2017 election, and then committed to having spades in the ground in this term of Parliament but has since gone quiet on this.
“I don't criticise the Minister for now acting carefully. Hospital design and construction takes careful planning, but I will be holding him to account for his raising expectations in the South in terms of timeliness, cost and level of service delivered.
“The Government must ensure that the public are kept informed of the progress on their hospital. Similar rebuilds here and around the world have taken around ten years so the public must not be kept in the dark about the time this project will take or the details.
“It is commendable that the Government have committed to funding the hospital rebuild but I would warn that they can't take it back on to the crown balance sheet and then complain about capital shortfall left by the previous National Government - that would be disingenuous.”