The Government’s announcement that, despite passing legislation last year, it’s now consulting with the public on proposed regulation and standards on medicinal cannabis shows just how badly it has managed this process, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The Government has really mucked up the order when passing its medicinal cannabis Bill last year. It’s bad enough it spends long periods of time on working groups doing the work on policies it should have done in Opposition, but in this case it has rushed through a Bill and only now has it started the discussion around it.
“This is an outrageous misuse of the policy process. The Bill essentially left the details of a medicinal cannabis scheme to officials with no further parliamentary oversight over the final form and function of the Bill. New Zealanders elect us to make decisions, not to pass off the big calls to others.
“National came up with a comprehensive scheme for medicinal cannabis that improves access and affordability for New Zealanders in need a year ago. But the Government couldn’t swallow its pride and acknowledge the excellent framework we developed.
“The consultation proposal comes as no surprise, considering the light touch provided by the Government’s medicinal cannabis Bill last year. Many of the questions asked in this proposal were answered in National’s proposed amendments.
“Establishing quality standards will take some time, but we could have been a year further down the road if the Government had taken on some of our proposed amendments. New Zealand is losing export market share while the Government lets officials talk.
“The consultation proposal and other processes are already well behind schedule. Under us, those eligible Kiwis in pain could be receiving affordable medicinal cannabis by now, instead they are forced to wait while the Government goes through its consultation process.”
Today’s announcement that the Government will assist District Health Boards (DHB) with their capital charge costs doesn’t address the underlying causes of their deficits, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The Minister is using the possibility of financial relief as a lever against poor performing DHBs. If he really wanted to see improved performance then he would be better off providing more funding like he said he would in Opposition.
“The capital charge signals that capital is not costless. It incentivises DHBs to use their assets efficiently. This is a symbolic gesture that takes away good incentives and does the least for DHBs with the largest deficits.
“DHBs that have already embarked on significant capital projects are ineligible for relief, which creates an uneven playing field between those that are in the midst of large projects, and those that have plans on the horizon.
“The Minister’s handling of the DHB deficits is another example of this Government failing to deliver on its promises. David Clark said he would rein in deficits but instead we’ve seen them balloon to record levels.
“Despite what the Government claims, removing the capital charge will not affect the overall level of funding available for DHBs because the Government will simply have less additional money available for DHBs each year.
“This is a case of the Government failing to acknowledge that someone has to pay the costs of borrowing to fund capital investment, and in this case it will be New Zealanders who have to pick up the slack.”
The Government’s tertiary education reforms will be wider than first though and will strip power and assets from regional polytechnics like Otago Polytechnic, which could be detrimental to the Otago brand, List MP based in Dunedin Michael Woodhouse says.
“National has obtained a Cabinet paper which outlines the Government’s proposed changes, the Government will take this paper to Cabinet on Monday.
“The reforms will mean regional polytechnics will be renamed as subsidiaries of a newly formed statutory entity called New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST). After two years polytechs and Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) will be dissolved.
“This is disastrous for regional education and apprenticeships, and will be detrimental to our region’s brand. Identity matters for Otago. Its name is globally recognised, and it appears there will be a damaging loss of the Otago brand.
“The Government’s ‘we know best’ attitude will mean the organising of apprentices will be taken from industry, who know the needs of Otago best, and instead will be given to one polytech.
“Cash assets and community legacy assets will be ring fenced at the new head office, and all other assets will be taken away and consolidated. Current boards will be sacked on day one including local members, and will be replaced by a subsidiary board, and regional leadership groups will be advisory only.
“Otago Polytechnic is one of the highest performing Polytechs in the country, with a reputation for being nimble to the needs of its community. The loss of autonomy signalled by this change could be very bad for the region.
“The Government is proposing to remove out of region provisions as well. The Auckland Campus is a big part of the financial strength of Otago Polytechnic. Its closure would severely weaken it.
“The Government has said it is committed to the regions. But it is destroying a polytech which is integral to our community. This is a case of Wellington telling Otago what to do. Education Minister Chris Hipkins should be addressing the problems where they are and leaving successful institutions like Otago Polytechnic alone.
“National will return polytechnic assets taken by Labour and give them back to communities. We will return polytechnic decision making back to communities and the regions. We will return apprentices to the industry.
“We know how important Otago Polytechnic is to Otago. National will fight these reforms, we will fight for regional New Zealand and we will fight against idealistic educational reforms.”
National is proposing a Primary Sector Visa to help provide workforce certainty for employers in the primary sector, National’s Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Our primary sector is diversifying so we can try and feed an increasing global population. It’s important we have the workforce to manage, develop and maintain New Zealand’s agricultural and horticultural businesses.
“Farmers and growers are crying out for skilled labour but there isn’t enough workers to meet demand. Many are experiencing serious implications of food rotting because of a lack of labour stifling growth and will have to downsize. A solution is needed now.
“The Primary Sector Visa would act as an avenue for skilled and experienced migrants to help get residence and build their futures here.
“It would work alongside other National initiatives such as supporting vocational education and agricultural training, extending the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme and promoting the sector as an attractive career prospect for young people.
“I encourage you to read National’s recently launched primary sector discussion document for more insight into our strategy to address the sector’s growing workforce issues.”
Primary Sector Discussion Doc can be found here
Today’s Budget announcements for Vote Health amount to nothing more than another failure in this Government’s self-proclaimed ‘year of delivery’, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The sea of red ink we’ve seen our nation’s District Health Boards sink deeper into won’t be fixed and the $569m allocated for DHB cost pressures will hardly be enough to even keep the lights on. It’s even $81m less than the $650m David Clark said was needed two years ago.
“DHBs are going to have to start the new financial year already needing to scrimp and save, as this Budget doesn’t give them enough to get ahead when DHBs are heading for deficits of $500 million by the end of June.
“On top of this the following underfunded initiatives and broken promises is a sample of why the Health sector will be deeply disappointed in Budget 2019:
- No money for Independent Midwives.
- No remedy for the broken promise on GP fees reductions for all New Zealanders.
- A measly 1% increase in medicines funding that won’t keep pace with population growth and demand pressure.
- No free health check for senior New Zealanders.
“The Government was left with growing surpluses and made huge promises for the Health portfolio which they have failed to deliver on. Instead they have left a litany of broken promises.”
The Ministry of Health’s quiet apology to the New Zealand College of Midwives (NZCOM) for failing to secure adequate remuneration in Budget 2018 should have come from the Minister himself, says National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse.
“MoH and NZCOM agreed to a Co-Design process that assessed an appropriate remuneration for independent midwives in 2017, but they’re yet to see a budget allocation that reflects this.
“The cost to phase increases recommended by the Co-Design process over four years is around $55 million this year and $751 million over the next four years.
“Obtained Budget 2019 documents appear to show independent midwives have once again missed out on having their remuneration claim addressed, David Clark needs to apologise twice for this snub.
“In 2017 the previous National Government agreed to settle NZCOM’s application for judicial review alleging discrimination against midwives based on gender and kicked off the Co-design report.
“The Minister addressed a midwifery march on Parliament in May last year, telling them he was listening to their concerns. What he didn’t tell them was that he had months earlier received the report of the Co-Design group but had ignored the substantive recommendations in preparing Budget 2018.
“As part of the mediated settlement the Ministry was required to apologise for inaction in last year’s Budget. The apology should have come from the Minister himself as the Ministry are under his direction and the decision not to include increases in remuneration that reflected the Co-Design recommendations could only have come from him.
“One year being overlooked is bad enough, two years in a row is just disrespectful and won’t stop independent midwives leaving the sector in their droves. This must be remedied.”
The number of adults who aren’t seeing their doctor because of the price has increased by 38,000, making a mockery of the Health Minister’s promise to improve access to affordable healthcare, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
The 2017/18 New Zealand Health Survey estimates 585,000 people over the age of 15 could not afford to visit their GP, up from 547,000 in the 2016/17 survey – the highest this figure has been since the survey began.
“The fact that 38,000 more people haven’t been able to afford GP visits on David Clark’s watch shows the reality of the financial barriers to healthcare are a long way from his lofty rhetoric,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“In Opposition, David Clark said making sure everyone had access to affordable, quality healthcare was on his to-do list. But despite the Government’s commitment to reduce fees for all adults, last year’s Budget was a shadow of that promise.
“The result of overpromising and under-delivering is now plain to see.
“The Minister is clearly out of his depth and this is another example that a little money and a lot of hope does not improve the health of New Zealanders.”
This week’s junior doctors’ strike will not only cause mass disruption but could put lives at risk, National’s Health Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Up to 4000 doctors are striking for the week meaning thousands of procedures and appointments will be cancelled. It’s the longest strike we’ve ever had.
“Major surgeries such as cardiac and cancer surgery are being delayed and it is not overstating it to say that the wellbeing of patients will be seriously compromised, possibly resulting in loss of life as a consequence of delayed treatment.
“Health Minister David Clark has sat on his hands and let this occur under his watch, he’s letting the unions have the final say when it should be down to district health boards (DHB) and hospital chief executives. He can no longer sit on the side-lines and leave it to the DHBs. He must ensure the dispute is settled so patients receive the care they deserve.
“Labour talked big in opposition about reining in the deficits at our DHBs but instead we’ve seen them sink further into red ink, with the combined deficit likely to reach $500 million by the end of the financial year.
“New Zealanders deserve the right to consistent and reliable healthcare. The Minister needs to sort his mess out or we’ll continue to have our health system mired by strikes for the rest of the year.”
National is offering cautious support for the Government’s intention to replace the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) with a commissioner, but on the condition David Clark commits to returning the board to the normal democratic process as soon as possible, National’s Health Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The Waikato DHB has had serious issues in recent times such as unjustified spending from its previous Chief Executive, struggles to find a replacement, and a forecast deficit of $56m.
“Against that backdrop the clinical staff and outgoing acting CEO Derek Wright have worked extremely hard to maintain clinical and financial viability, and blame should not be levelled at those hard-working staff.
“While these issues are behind the Government’s decision, Dr Clark has had ample time to address issues and deliver on his pledge to rein in the deficits of our DHBs, but instead we’ve seen them sink further into a sea of red ink.
“With combined deficits likely to reach $500 million by year’s end, it’s clear that DHBs are poorly served by a Minister and Government that promised much and delivered little and we are starting to see the effect this is having.
“The board members of many other DHBs where the books have become worse off over the past 18 months will be looking over their shoulders to ensure they’re not next on the scrap heap to be replaced by a commissioner.
“The Minister’s priority now needs to be working hard to ensure the Waikato DHB’s status can be returned as soon as possible.”
The decision made by junior doctors to walk off the job for five days will cause enormous disruption and needs to be addressed by Health Minister David Clark, National Spokesperson for Health Michael Woodhouse says.
“Up to 4000 junior doctors have signalled they’re going to be putting down their stethoscopes and are walking off the job from 29 April to 4 May.
“After the last strike was deferred, the Minister and District Health Boards should have used that time to negotiate a deal that ensured our health services continued and further action avoided, so New Zealanders aren’t going to be at risk.
“Instead the Minister has sat on his hands and let the situation with DHBs get away from him. He’s let every single DHB sink into more debt since he’s taken over and the combined debt looks likely to reach $500 million by year’s end.
“This mismanagement has led to the upcoming strike, and if the Minister doesn’t get things under control then New Zealand could be set for a long year of strikes.
“There are still two weeks till the strike is set to take place, David Clark needs to prioritise sorting his mess out to ensure New Zealanders aren’t put at risk come 29 April.”