National’s Health Discussion Document explores policies that seek to address health issues faced specifically by women and improve their care, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Women need care for a range of different health issues, from pregnancy and childbirth to rare gynaecological cancers and, while both women and men can suffer from breast cancer, it’s substantially more common in women.
“We want women who experience breast cancer to have access to compassionate care which gives them dignity and restores their confidence. Right now, women who have a mastectomy aren’t always offered a reconstruction, or face a long wait for that to happen.
“Not all women will want to have a reconstruction, but we’re asking whether it should be offered routinely as a part of cancer care so that those who do want it can access it in a timely way and, where possible, have a reconstruction at the same time as their mastectomy.
“We also want to ensure women can access high quality maternity care across New Zealand, whether they’re in Auckland or Southland. Part of that can be done through ensuring community midwives are remunerated fairly for the amazing work they do.
“We’re proposing addressing income equity claims by independent midwives in line with the recommendations of the Co-Design Report commissioned by the previous National Government, which this Government has so far failed to take up.
“For women who have been treated using surgical mesh, there are sometimes mild or even debilitating complications which impact on quality of life. It’s effective for many patients, but we’ll establish a National Mesh Register to track the incidence of adverse events. The current Government pledged to establish one, but it has failed to deliver.
“National’s committed to ensuring women young and old have high-quality healthcare available to them, whether it’s part of their cancer treatment, when they become a mum, or after a gynaecological surgery.
“National will make health a priority.”
National wants to simplify our healthcare system as part of our commitment to delivering quality healthcare for New Zealanders as locally as possible, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“All health systems are complex, but for a country of our size, it’s worth asking where and how we can simplify ours to deliver better care for New Zealanders and better value for money.
“We support the principle of DHBs delivering services and being locally governed, but in our Health Discussion Document, National is asking whether the current model of elected DHB governance is the best way to ensure performance.
“We want to make changes that improve access and consistency of services across the country. One of the ways this could be done is through planning and funding services at a regional level, and delivering them through DHBs locally. We want New Zealanders’ feedback on this proposal.
“We’re also asking whether, for the most complex services, management could be at a national level.
“National wants to improve care for all New Zealanders, no matter where they live, and ensure that our system is open to innovation so that that improvement is continuous.
“We’re asking these questions to ensure DHB structures are working the best they can and Kiwis are getting the care they need.”
National will support programmes which will vastly improve the quality of life for thousands of New Zealanders, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Healthy teeth, ears and eyes are all fundamental to quality of life and overall health at all ages. In our Health Discussion Document, we’re looking at ways to improve care in these areas for all New Zealanders.
“It’s important to start early. Already, over 120,000 children are overdue for their dental checks. National will increase funding for the school dental service to ensure every school-aged child has access to good oral health and any issues are picked up promptly.
“The previous National Government committed to increasing access to cochlear implants for adults. The current Government has scrapped that commitment. We’ll reintroduce it and increase the number of adult cochlear implants performed from 40 per year to 100 per year.
“Your eyes and vision become more fragile as you age. This is why National is proposing the first ever National Eye Health Survey to ensure we’ve got the resources in place to provide high-quality eye care for all New Zealanders.
“We’re also asking whether government should fund a free assessment for macular degeneration for New Zealanders when they reach 65, and whether we should have mobile clinics to test the vision and hearing of older Kiwis in remote areas.
“Our range of policies will ensure New Zealanders have healthy eyes, teeth and ears, no matter how old they are or where in New Zealand they live. National is doing the work in Opposition so we’re ready to hit the ground running in 2020.”
David Clark should hold a ministerial inquiry into PHARMAC’s decision to switch to the generic form of epilepsy drug lamotrigine which may have resulted in four deaths, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“PHARMAC’s decision to fund only one brand of lamotrigine and the subsequent reversal of that decision raises more questions than it answers.
“Given four people have died since the initial brand switch, the public and patients deserve to know whether or not those deaths were as a result of the compulsory switch to Logem, the generic form of lamotrigine.
“We know that Medsafe had raised concerns about the brand switch before it went ahead.
“What we need to know now is whether the Minister was involved in the decision-making around lamotrigine, which would call into question PHARMAC’s independence, or whether Medsafe raised further concerns about the number of adverse reactions they were seeing.
“A ministerial inquiry is the appropriate way of getting answers to these questions.
“Ultimately the question also needs to be asked about whether Dr Clark’s decision to increase PHARMAC funding by an amount which barely covers inflation is forcing risky drug-switches on the basis of making savings. By comparison, National increased PHARMAC funding by an average of $24 million each year we were in government.
“The public deserves answers to these questions so we can continue to have confidence in PHARMAC’s independence and decision-making.”
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.”