The Government has thumbed its nose at National’s offer to cooperate on a regulatory regime for vaping products, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Several weeks ago, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges offered to work with the Government to create a regulatory regime for vaping products in light of concerns that they were increasingly being used by young people not previously addicted to tobacco.
“After weeks of silence, Associate Minister Jenny Salesa told Parliament yesterday that she welcomed National’s input, but only after any potential legislation went to Select Committee.
“This is the opposite of constructiveness. Worse than that, there’s no indication the Government will make progress on its own any time soon. Jenny Salesa reported to Cabinet on vaping regulations in November last year, but almost a year on, nothing has happened.
“Parents are becoming increasingly concerned that vapes are being marketed at children. They come in bright colours, have child-attractive flavours and are advertised liberally. We want to ensure vaping is a tool to help smokers quit, not an easily accessible habit for young teens.
“There are concerns those who wouldn’t have taken up smoking are taking up vaping and schools are struggling to stop the growing trend.
“Consumers also need assurances that these products will not be harmful to their health.
“Regulation is required quickly but the Government is dragging its heels at every turn. But National’s offer is still on the table.
“We’re willing to work constructively to ensure we’re striking the right balance around this important issue. It’s time for the Government to front up and do the right thing.”
New documents released under the Official Information Act show David Clark’s attempt to blame the previous Government for the Holidays Act debacle isn’t grounded in facts, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“DHBs were asked by the previous Government on multiple occasions beginning in April 2015 whether there were potential breaches in the Holidays Act, and assured the Ministry of Health that everything was fine.
“But on unveiling a massive combined deficit of $1 billion this week, David Clark claimed this was because the previous Government ‘did nothing’.
“That’s just not true. When proactively asked about potential breaches of the Holidays Act, the Ministry of Health and DHBs advised that ‘all were compliant’, saying ‘we can confidently say that all DHBs are compliant with the legislation’.
“We now know that the fallout from misinterpreting the Holidays Act will cost more than half a billion dollars. This Government was made aware of the problems after it came into office and it’s Dr Clark that has done nothing since he became aware of them. Even now he will take two years to reimburse the underpayments. It’s simply not good enough.
“At a time when this Labour-led Government has put the health sector under significant pressure and DHB deficits are getting out of control, this is another addition to an already overstressed balance sheet.
“Dr Clark should be urgently looking into how things went so wrong. Thousands of health workers have had their leave underpaid for years, and New Zealanders need assurances that the issues have been comprehensively fixed.
“This Government has failed to get a grip on the health system and Kiwis will pay the price for its failures.”
Health Minister David Clark has let DHB deficits blow out to a billion dollars putting the sustainability of New Zealand’s health services in crisis, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“National has been predicting this colossal increase in DHB deficits since January. This was entirely foreseeable and Dr Clark should have taken steps to avoid it rather than letting DHBs get into such a precarious financial situation.
“Instead, deficits have been rapidly increasing over the past year and health services are in crisis. Dr Clark has let deficits balloon to record highs because the Government has neither provided the funding they claimed they would nor set expectations for continued fiscal discipline.
“New Zealanders are suffering increased wait times and a measles outbreak as the Government has let vaccine stocks run low, scrapped health targets and delayed elective surgeries.
“The sustainability of New Zealand’s public health system is at critical risk and the Government needs to immediately provide reassurances to New Zealanders that they will be able to access the care they need.
“Dr Clark has let DHBs’ finances get completely out of control.”
Health Minister David Clark has dragged his heels and almost 100 days after the end of the financial year he still hasn’t published data on elective surgery numbers, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Dr Clark’s stopped proactively publishing health data Kiwis have a right to see because he knows the current Government won’t match National’s record of nine years of exceeding health targets and continuously improving Kiwis’ access to elective surgeries.
“As National predicted earlier this year, we could see the number of elective surgeries fall for the first time in a decade under this Labour-led Government. That’s thousands fewer New Zealanders getting the healthcare they need.
“Since this Government came into office, we’ve seen health targets scrapped, falling vaccination rates, measles outbreaks, increased A&E waiting times and flatlining PHARMAC funding.
“Elective surgeries can transform patients’ quality of life. National recognised how important they were and continuously increased surgery numbers so that more New Zealanders benefitted from timely access to healthcare.
“Dr Clark needs to be upfront with New Zealanders and show us the numbers.”
The Minister of Health must act swiftly to reassure New Zealanders that their health records are secure in the wake of a potentially significant cybersecurity breach at one of the country’s largest Public Health Organisations, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“This cyber security breach may have seen information about the mental health, sexual health and other private enrolment information of several thousand past and present patients of practices with Tū Ora Compass PHO accessed and in criminal hands. This is an extremely serious and concerning breach.
“The response by the Government must be swift and decisive, not only to reassure patients of Tū Ora Compass, but of every single New Zealand organisation holding sensitive health records. The Health Minister also needs to ensure patients are aware of what identity data was accessed so that they can protect themselves against the potential for identity theft.
“Tū Ora Compass’s 2018 Annual Report summarises the number of enrolled patients receiving services such as sexual health, sexual assault and mental health services. That information is drawn from data that may have been the subject of the security breach. Every effort must be made to establish what sensitive data has been accessed or stolen.
“The Minister must also urgently investigate whether the breach was a Trojan Horse attempt to access other sensitive Government agency platforms where more sensitive information resides.
“This is not the first time there has been a significant data breach under this Government. Just last month there was a breach at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, where information on children had been accessed. Earlier in the year staff at NZTA were at risk of personal identity theft after a USB drive containing staff identity cards was lost.
“New Zealanders need to have confidence in the agencies holding their personal data. This latest breach is extremely concerning, and many will be rightly worried about where their sensitive information is, and who has it.
“This breach is more wide-reaching than Tū Ora Compass PHO. Other providers could have been breached or at risk of a similar incursion, and the Minister must act swiftly and decisively to ensure that high standards of data protection are in place across the whole health sector.”
The Government’s messaging around the current measles outbreak is confused and often contradictory and that’s not helping people at risk of contracting the disease, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“In spite of multiple outbreaks of measles across the country, the Government has left it to DHBs to set their own policies on vaccination even though the scale of the outbreak shows central leadership is needed.
“The main outbreak is in Auckland, and despite the Auckland Regional Public Health Service leading on national messaging, sometimes their advice is in direct conflict with the Ministry of Health’s own published advice.
“For example, it’s unclear whether Aucklanders aged between five and 15 are a current priority for vaccination, as the guidelines from the Ministry and ARPHS differ. People who need and should get vaccines will miss out if the guidelines aren’t consistent.
“It’s also problematic that the DHBs nearest to Auckland have different vaccination policies to each other and to Auckland. The Waikato DHB website openly states that people over five cannot be vaccinated due to ‘limited vaccine supply’, despite Julie Anne Genter’s insistence that there’s no issue with vaccine supplies.
“Health Minister David Clark and Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter were asleep at the wheel and removed the previous Government’s health targets which resulted in higher vaccination rates. They then missed the warning signs of an outbreak and took too long to order more vaccines.
“We don’t even know when the promised 100,000 vaccines will be arriving. Measles cases are continuing to increase nationally, with 1,600 confirmed cases and Southern DHB reaching 50 cases this week.
“The Government has let measles get out of control, and it’s time for it to show some leadership.”
The Government has known measles outbreaks have been sweeping the country for months and should have ordered more vaccines far sooner, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“There were three outbreaks in the first two months of this year, in Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Canterbury, and by June this was up to nine, adding up to the second highest number of outbreaks ever recorded. The warning signs were there, but Health Minister David Clark did nothing.
“The Government’s now flip-flopping over MMR vaccines, with shortages forcing large numbers of New Zealanders to go unvaccinated and causing huge disparities in access to vaccines across the country.
“Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter has claimed that 100,000 additional vaccines will be arriving ‘in the coming weeks’ but won’t say when. New Zealanders need clarity and certainty.
“David Clark and Julie Anne Genter have been unacceptably slow to react to the measles outbreak. The World Health Organisation contacted the Government in April to warn them about the increased risks from measles facing all Pacific nations.
“The number of measles cases has now passed 1,600 and it’s not clear that the most recent shipment of 52,000 vaccines has even been distributed around the country more than two weeks after it arrived in New Zealand.
“If Julie Anne Genter wants to get the measles outbreak under control, she needs to distribute all of the vaccines currently available, authorise pharmacists to vaccinate for measles to improve access like National called for more than a month ago, clarify when the 100,000 vaccines will arrive and reinstate the health targets her Government scrapped.
“Measles is so easily preventable if people can access the MMR vaccine. Two unborn babies are now known to have died, possibly as a result of their mothers contracting measles. This underlines why it is so important for Kiwis to be vaccinated.
“Under National, health targets resulted in vaccination rates that were increasing. This Government scrapped them and hasn’t created any new targets like it said it would.
“This Government has let measles get out of control.”
It’s disappointing that the interim report on the Health and Disability System review is more than 300 pages long but doesn’t contain a single recommendation, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“A review of the health and disability sector is timely and welcome, but it’s extraordinary that after nine years in opposition, two in Government, and despite how much work has been done and the length of the report, we still have no more information than we did two years ago.
“The report explicitly states that there’s ‘nothing surprising here’, but if none of this is new, the Government should tell us what it’s going to do to ensure New Zealand’s health system better serves New Zealanders.
“This report cost $9.6 million – more than twice the cost of its review of the tax system. If it’s to be money well spent, we would expect to see some sense of direction.
“And despite the Government’s claims the health system lacks leadership, it isn’t showing any leadership either.
“After 11 years, a massive review and a 300-page report, it’s time the Government provided clarity on what it wants to do with our health system.
“National supports the proposal to develop strategies that will modernise and strengthen the health workforce.
“We’re also in favour of preventative healthcare – as long as that doesn’t come at the cost of the care New Zealanders need now.
“But the report’s comments on system structure are muddled and if there’s going to be reform, we need to know how that will look. It says that the current structure is too confusing, but that restructuring would be ‘disruptive’.
“Either structural reform is on this Government’s agenda or it isn’t. The public and health sector deserve greater clarity on its plans.
“At this point, all we have is yet another review with no tangible outcomes for New Zealanders who are struggling now with increased surgery wait times and poorer performance on a range of key measures, including immunisation and cancer treatment.”
The Government has been embarrassed into action on cancer by the National Party and has fallen short, National’s spokesperson for Health Michael Woodhouse says.
“After nine years of opposition and two years of sitting on his hands in Government, Minister Clark has been dragged kicking and screaming into some sort of strategy because of the National Party.
“The Minister of Health today made his grand announcement of an ‘interim’ cancer plan – a watered down regurgitation of work we already had under way.
“Commitments including prevention, screening, treatment and palliative care are meaningful objectives, which can be found in the already established New Zealand Cancer Plan 2015-2018.
“Rather than progress the strategy already put in place, the Minister has played politics and ground cancer development to a halt. The consequence being that 13 of 20 District Health Boards have shown poorer performance against the Faster Cancer Treatment target under this Government. Despite this, the Government’s plan makes no reference to targets for faster cancer treatment.
“This is too little too late and shows a complete disregard for the many families resorting to massive loans and Givealittle pages to afford proper cancer treatment.
“In September 2017 the Minister claimed he had a ‘fully costed’ and ‘independently audited’ cancer plan. The Government has repeatedly delayed the release of any strategy, being forced to scramble something together after National took decisive action on this life threatening issue.
“Last month at our Annual Conference, National Leader Simon Bridges announced that we have committed to establishing and funding a Cancer Agency that was fully independent, involved in prevention, screening and treatment of the disease. This is something the Labour Party campaigned on in opposition but has failed to deliver with this announcement, breaking their promise to cancer sufferers.
“National also committed to setting up a $200 million fund dedicated to cancer drugs so that New Zealanders can get the treatment they need. The Government’s desperate attempt to play catch up with a poor imitation of National’s funding for cancer drugs is an embarrassment.
“It is shameful that it took an announcement from the Opposition to force movement from the Government on this issue. In the year of delivery, the Labour Government has again shown there is none.”
The performance of District Health Boards is declining under this Labour-led Government’s lacklustre leadership, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The Ministry of Health recently published the 2018/19 Quarter Three Health Target Data file on its website – several months later than expected – which showed the health system has gone backwards in two thirds of the published metrics since David Clark became Health Minister.
“Performance has reduced so much that the Ministry of Health no longer publishes information on elective surgeries.
“What’s more, 17 of the 20 DHBs have poorer immunisation rates than they did before he became Minister, which is especially concerning during a measles outbreak, and 13 of them have shown poorer performance against the Faster Cancer Treatment target.
“Dr Clark should explain why he thinks New Zealanders don’t deserve timely updates on the performance of our DHBs, financial or otherwise, and how he’s going to ensure both monitoring and performance improve.
“This Government’s record on health is woeful and worsening. It’s scrapped health targets, which resulted in high immunisation rates, and still not delivered its long-awaited cancer plan.
“National regularly reported back on DHB performance as part of its commitment to better public services. This Government is failing in its commitment to being ‘open and transparent’.
“Dr Clark has also failed to make good on his promise to create a new set of performance measures that would improve health outcomes for New Zealanders. Like so many things that were promised, we’re still waiting. But Kiwis in need of healthcare don’t always have the luxury of time.
“In the absence of clear targets, performance in a range of key measure of Kiwis’ health shows things are getting worse. This Government must be held accountable for its failures on health.”