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.”
Labour looks set to break its election promise to lower the cost of GP visits by $10, leaving New Zealanders further out of pocket and GP practices at risk of closure, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Both National and Labour promised during the election to lower the cost of GP visits.
“But Labour is already preparing to break its promise to lower the fee cap for Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) practices from $18 to $8 and to $2 for teens – as well as its pledge to increase funding for all practices that lowered their fees by $10 per visit.
“All this was meant to happen from 1 July but it now appears yet another victim of the Government’s inability to manage the books, it’s poor spending decisions and its continued raid on the back pockets of New Zealanders.
“Sources in the GP community advise me that the pledges will at best be delayed, and at worst canned altogether, pending a review – yes, yet another Government working group - of primary health funding.
“New Zealand Doctor also reported last week that some practices believed the funding changes would threaten their viability and some might have to close.
“Regardless of the reasons for the delay, the Government made an unequivocal commitment to reduce the cost of GP fees for New Zealanders.
“Health Minister David Clark is apparently still working through the package of initiatives as part of the Budget process but that’s not good enough. This was a firm promise to New Zealanders when Labour was trying to get into Government – but now in power it’s trying to renege.
“The Prime Minister made much of the policy when she made the announcement at Mangere last year, saying the fees reduction would be implemented while Labour undertook a review of primary care, not after it.
“She stated the Labour Party had been working on the policy for some time but clearly not long enough for them to deliver on their promise or to effectively engage the GP community.
“After just six months the list of u-turns, broken promises and bad decisions made by this floundering Government is growing by the day, and raising real concerns.
“This likely backtrack looks to be another example of a policy that was poorly thought through or costed. GP practices and New Zealanders deserve to know what the Government’s real intentions are.”
Documents provided to the Minister of Health David Clark as released by media today raise serious questions about whether the Minister misled New Zealanders about his knowledge of problems at Middlemore Hospital.
“Given these documents, it is simply not believable for the Minister to claim not to have been briefed by the DHB about wider building issues after he visited Middlemore in early March to inspect the Scott Building,” National Party Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The Minister of Health has been asked questions about his knowledge of the problems at Middlemore for some time now and these documents indicate that he would have known more than he’s admitted.
“These documents clearly indicate that the Minister was briefed as early as October and not only took no action at that time but claimed not to have been informed of the issues.
“This raises serious questions of whether the Minister has misled the media, Parliament and the public, and I think they are owed an urgent explanation.”
Health Minister David Clark needs to walk the talk and work with DHBs to ensure they can successfully negotiate a pay increase with nurses before strike action is taken, National’s Health Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“It comes as no surprise that the New Zealand Nurses Organisation has rejected the DHBs’ offer of a 2 per cent pay increase given the very high expectations created by this Government.
“Labour spent years talking about how the health sector was underfunded and as a result created the expectation that nurses were in for a big bump in their wages.
“Yet the first thing it does when it comes into Government is throw $2.8 billion at tertiary students leaving little money to invest in health and other important areas.
“Health Minister David Clark must at the very least make sure that DHBs have the confidence to make a higher offer to nurses by signalling future funding.
“And he must do it quickly, before nurses go on strike for the first time in decades. Strike action just as we’re approaching winter would cripple our health system and put lives at risk.
“This is a mess created by the Government and an example of the dangers of over promising and under delivering.
“It’s simply not good enough for the Government to sit on the sidelines and leave it to the DHBs to clean up its mess.”
The Prime Minister must condemn the latest threatening behaviour of the RMTU in the Lyttelton Port strike, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“A union organiser has been delivering fliers around Christchurch with the name and address of one of the port’s board members on them,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“This is a clear attempt to get people to approach that person personally and place pressure on them to fold in behind the strikers.
“It’s threatening thuggish behaviour and it needs to be condemned and stopped.
“This is not the 1930s. It’s the 21st century and bully boy tactics should be long gone.
“It’s obvious that the union thinks it can get away with this sort of behaviour under a Labour Government. The Prime Minister needs to be make it clear they can’t.
“Jacinda Ardern and her Minister Iain Lees-Galloway need to publicly denounce this approach and make sure that these sorts of ugly tactics have no place in 21st century industrial relations.
“We can have robust negotiations about pay and conditions without encouraging personal attacks and abuse.”