The Government’s belated response to Northland’s meningococcal outbreak is needed but does not alter the fact the handling so far has been abysmal, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Health Minister David Clark needs to explain why it took six months for the Northland community to be made aware of the meningococcal outbreak which has resulted in three deaths in that time. Northland DHB staff were reportedly warned in May to have their children immunised against the strain, however.
“It is outrageous that in this case public warnings weren’t issued for this serious outbreak sooner, ensuring people knew what symptoms to look out for. The Northland DHB’s claim that it ‘didn’t want to alarm people’ is completely inappropriate. Its job is to keep people healthy and informed.
“The Government needs to reassure New Zealanders that public will be made aware of any future outbreaks sooner and that they will be handled more appropriately. It must also reassure New Zealanders that there are sufficient treatments available for outbreaks like this, given the reported nationwide shortages of vital medicines.
“The fact is this outbreak has undermined that confidence.
“While the vaccination campaign announced today will help, lives have been put at risk. Mr Clark needs to assure the public that our health system is prepared and will act appropriately to minimise the effect of this or any future outbreaks. The handling of the current situation would suggest otherwise.”
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has confirmed he took just hours to decide to allow convicted drug dealer and gang associate Karel Sroubek to stay in New Zealand, without consideration of the facts, National’s Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Mr Lees-Galloway has arrogantly refused to reveal the evidence upon which he made this appalling decision to grant Mr Sroubek residency, saying it was not in the public interest. He insisted it was a complicated decision not taken lightly.
“The Prime Minister even went as far as saying Mr Lees-Galloway ‘shared with me the careful consideration that he gave this case… it was clearly a very difficult decision’.
“Only clearly it wasn’t.
“Mr Lees-Galloway decided to grant New Zealand residency to a drug dealing gang associate who was previously accused of a crime which saw a witness and his family placed in witness protection, on the same afternoon he received the file for consideration.
“Mr Lees Galloway has confirmed his first consideration of Mr Sroubek’s application to cancel his deportation was at 4.30pm on September 19. The decision was made that same afternoon, with a letter to Mr Sroubek’s lawyer confirming the decision dated that same day.
“The evidence is now overwhelming. Mr Lees-Galloway didn’t do his job. He made a decision to make New Zealanders less safe in less time than it takes to play a game of rugby.
“It is now clear he made that call without asking questions and without proper consideration of the facts or the track record of the convicted criminal he was allowing to stay. Mr Sroubek needs to go and Mr Lees-Galloway does too.”
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has been unable to explain his appalling decision to grant Karel Sroubek permanent residency and if he continues to refuse to explain then he should resign, National’s Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell and Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse say.
“The Prime Minister and Iain Lees-Galloway have been unable to provide any good reason for granting residency to a drug-dealing gang affiliate who came into New Zealand with a false passport,” Mr Mitchell says.
“They haven’t been able to justify the decision because it cannot be justified. Mr Sroubek comes from the Czech Republic, a first world country governed by the rule of law, which is part of the European Union. It seems like the Minister has been duped by a sob-story from the immigration lawyer of an experienced criminal.
“In her press conference the Prime Minister said she was ‘giving us clues’ as to why Mr Sroubek should stay. How about giving us answers. A wink and nudge isn’t good enough when the safety of New Zealanders is at risk,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“The Prime Minister also told that media that the National Government would have had to make similar decisions. I categorically reject that we would have allowed anyone with this sort of criminal history to stay here. We weren’t that naïve.
“The letter that Mr Lees-Galloway released is the standard letter put out by anyone who receives residency which is approved by a Minister, it doesn’t prove anything.
“Mr Lees-Galloway has proved he’s not working in the best interests of New Zealanders and he’s making our country less safe. If he can’t provide an explanation then he’s simply not capable of being a Minister.”
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway needs to explain why he granted permanent residency to Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik, who is currently in prison, National’s Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell and Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse say.
“The Minister must release more information on what appears to be a disgraceful decision to grant residency to a violent gang associate convicted of importing drugs into New Zealand,” Mr Mitchell says.
“Mr Sroubek used a false passport to enter New Zealand in 2003. He is a known gang associate who is now serving time for importing drugs with a street value of $375,000.
“This is a person who the Parole Board has just decided is not safe enough to release back into the community. When his sentence ends, instead of being deported he will now be released back into the community.”
“Mr Lees-Galloway will not say why he made the decision to grant residency, nor what the conditions of his residency are,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“Serious questions need to be answered by the Minister about his decision. The information I have on this case does not come close to any threshold where special consideration should be given by the Minister.
“This Government has promised to clamp down on immigration, making it harder for Kiwi employers to fill skills shortages, yet it allows violent criminals to stay here.
“National is the party of the law and order and we are committed to making our communities safer and putting victims first. We will not stand by while decision like these are made without any justification.”
Health Minister David Clark has admitted in Parliament yesterday that he used funds that should have been reinvested into medicines for New Zealanders to offset the cost of wage settlements that his Government didn’t fully fund, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“After clearly evasive answers in Parliament yesterday, David Clark has been forced to admit that he stripped $200 million of Pharmac savings to fund the nurses’ settlements and even told DHBs they should use the savings for that very purpose.
“This is entirely inappropriate. Pharmac’s funding model enables savings made during the bulk purchasing of medicines to be re-invested to ensure continually improving and increasing access to medicines for New Zealanders.
“It is not set up so that the Minister can milk the Pharmaceutical budget to compensate for his Government’s overpromising.
“At first the Minister tried to deny that he diverted $200 million of Pharmac savings using creative accounting to make it look as though he had increased the budget when really he had simply moved procurement around.
“Now it’s clear that he not only stripped this funding away but that he used it to fund the nurses’ settlement that the Government should have been able to fund themselves.
“He then claimed more medicines are being bought for more New Zealanders but when pressed on the details of how many medicines, he didn’t have a clue.
“As we have seen in the last few days, increasing access to new and more medicines is vital for the health of New Zealanders. This can’t be done if Pharmac’s funding for medicines is not regularly increased.
“The Government needs to front up to ensure that Pharmac’s funding is not ransacked in the future and it needs to revaluate its prioritisation if $2.8 billion for fees free for students but nothing to provide cheaper doctors’ visits or medicines funding.”
Health Minister David Clark must come clean about funding for new medicines being pulled from Pharmac to settle the nurses’ pay dispute, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“This Government promised to prioritise the health system but has instead stripped away money that should have been reinvested into Pharmac meaning new medicines, including those to treat breast cancer that were petitioned for today, won’t be available for some time.
“Today I received a petition on the steps of Parliament signed by almost 34,000 New Zealanders calling on the Minister of Health to fund two drugs for breast cancer sufferers. Unfortunately, given the fact that today in Parliament the Minister couldn’t confirm where he reprioritised Pharmac’s funding to it seems unlikely the petitioner’s requests will be met.
“I directly asked him if he had spoken with officials about $200 million in funding reprioritised from the purchase of new medicines to nurses’ salary increases, but the Minister fudged his answers.
“This is not a question about the nurses getting the settlement they deserve – which they absolutely do – but the fact the Minister has taken buying power away from Pharmac in order to ensure Labour’s union friends are kept onside.
“The Labour-led Government’s self-enforced Budget Responsibility rules and its reckless and untargeted spending has backed them into a corner when it comes to settling multiple pay disputes, but cutting funding for medicines is not the answer.
“It must not be forgotten that Mr Clark and the Labour Party campaigned heavily on making sure Kiwis enjoyed ‘world-class cancer treatment’, but so far they’ve been silent on the issue since they came to power.
“It looks as though the petitioners call for action for breast cancer sufferers will fall on deaf ears. Mr Clark needs to front up on stripping away funds from the entity who provides access to all cancer medicines including the ones petitioned for today.”
National’s Health Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse and Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker today announced National will reinstate full services at the Lumsden Maternity Centre if elected in 2020.
“Providing full birthing services at Lumsden is vital for the health, wellbeing and safety of mothers, babies and their families. That’s why National is committed to reinstating Lumsden as a full birthing unit should we be re-elected in 2020,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“Hamish Walker and I have been advocating for this community to ensure that the downgrade of the centre wasn’t pursued. Unfortunately our efforts to convince the Health Minister and the Government of the need for these services have been continuously ignored and the Health Minister has not taken any action.
“The proposed closure highlights serious safety concerns, mothers will be forced to endure major delays in getting maternity care, with some having to travel up to 130km to give birth This should not be acceptable - this centre is indispensable to its rural community.”
“Lumsden Maternity Centre is crucial to the Southland community and this announcement provides safety and optimal care for new mothers and babies. I am delighted for the families who will be able to use this centre in the future if we are elected in 2020,” Mr Walker says.
“Despite a strong outcry from the Southland community to stop the downgrade, which was illustrated in my petition to save the Lumsden Maternity Centre and the protest march I led through Lumsden, the Government did not listen.
“This Government is carrying out a sustained attack on rural communities by increasing fuel taxes and stripping transport funding from the regions. The decision to downgrade Lumsden makes it clear that it doesn’t care to meet or even recognise the needs of rural communities.
“With population growth in the region set to increase significantly and approximately 1000 new homes planned for the Kingston housing development, the need for maternity services in this region will be more crucial than ever.
“I am incredibly proud of everyone who has fought for the centre. While the Government has not listened, National have and we are proud to provide much-needed security for the future of maternity care in Southland.”
National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says this Mental Health Awareness Week National is encouraging the Government to take action to help improve the mental health of New Zealanders.
“Mental wellness is extremely important to overall wellbeing. In New Zealand the focus has moved from de-institutionalisation in the 80s, to de-stigmatisation in the last decade, and now to an emphasis on prevention, early intervention, and resilience.
“National’s Mental Health spokesperson Matt Doocey and National’s Health caucus have been out in the community meeting with New Zealanders, including those who cope with mental health issues and those who provide support, to hear about what we can do to better help them.
“It’s clear that there needs to be better access to improved services now and with the increased focus on mental health in the lead up to the election the sector and New Zealanders were expecting continuing improvements.
“Unfortunately this Government reprioritised $100 million for 17 new mental health initiatives which were ready to be rolled out and which would have helped to save lives. The Government did so while it holds yet another one of its inquiries.
“Both the sector and those suffering mental health issues want all parties in Parliament to work together on enduring solutions. National invited the other political parties to do so however the offer was rejected by Labour, NZ First and the Greens.
“National is still committed establishing a cross-party group to produce policies that will endure beyond the three-year Parliamentary cycle.
“National takes tackling mental health issues seriously. National’s Budget 2017 included $224 million over four years to increase support for people to access mental health and addiction services. We also increased funding for mental health services from $1.1 billion to over $1.4 billion in 2015/16 - an increase of over $500 million over in our time in Government.
“This Mental Health Week we want to encourage the Government to take action to help improve the mental health of some of our most vulnerable right now, by investing the money that was put aside by National for what would have been life changing projects.”
Labour needs to fess up about what NZ First has gained from agreeing to increase the refugee quota by 500 in two years’ time, National’s Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The handling of what has been a cornerstone issue for Labour has been a mess from start to finish. First they were increasing the quota, then they weren’t, now they are - but not for another two years.
“The hold-up was of course Winston Peters’ exercising his authority over his larger but weaker coalition partners. Now he’s changed his mind and allowed the Prime Minister to make yet another announcement designed to boost her international profile, New Zealanders deserve to know about the quid pro quo.
“National believes 1000 refugees was about right. It costs around $100,000 per person per year to properly settle refugees to help them integrate and lead productive lives here and any increase needs to be balanced against other priorities.
“The fact that the Greens were nowhere to be seen in this announcement is evidence of the strong influence of New Zealand First had on it. The big question is what was the price of its support for a policy that only a week ago it denied the existence of. Time will tell.”
The Government has already committed millions more dollars to taking more refugees revealing Winston Peters’ undermining of the Prime Minister to be even more deliberate, National’s Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“In spite of Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway’s denials and accusations in Parliament today, the Government committed almost $14 million in capital and operational funding in this year’s Budget to build and operate two new blocks at the recently rebuilt Mangere Refugee Resettlement centre to accommodate more refugees.
“Budget documents clearly explain that ‘this funding will provide two additional accommodation blocks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre which would support an increase in the Refugee Quota to 1500 per annum’.
“It shows the Government was proceeding with the increase until Mr Peters emphatically pulled the rug out from under the Prime Minister with his comments in Nauru. The fact that no one from Labour has called him on it shows how dysfunctional this Government really is.
“What makes the matter worse is that rather than constructing empty buildings, that money could be going towards improving the lives of New Zealanders. Let’s not forget the Government is blaming its axing of the likes of cochlear implants, camps for at-risk young people and its broken promise of free GP visits on a lack of funding.
“This is yet more proof of an increasingly unstable coalition Government which can’t be trusted to put New Zealanders first by keeping its promises.”
Attached: Please click here to find information from Budget 2018 on the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre funding.