National is exploring options to replace first year Fees Free, supporting a university into the Top 50 international rankings, and we’re looking to invest in a third medical school in our Education Discussion Document, National’s Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“First year Fees Free has been an expensive failure. It’s failed to increase tertiary participation, in fact there are fewer learners now than before. We are asking for feedback on a range of options including possibly replacing first year Fees Free.
“National has been very clear about the Government’s reform of tertiary education – we oppose it. A National Government will return polytechnic assets back to polytechnics where they are still available, and return decision making back to regional polytechnics.
“We know the regions and local industry are best placed to teach their students.
“National is also looking to improve the international rankings of our universities. If we had a university in the top 50 university rankings, we would attract more overseas talent, lift academic excellence and improve productivity.
“By lifting the international rankings of our universities, we lift the overall quality of tertiary education in New Zealand.
“There is a huge demand for GPs in rural areas around New Zealand. We have listened to rural communities and National will explore a third medical school focused on retaining GPs in rural communities.
“This is something the previous National Government committed too and was cancelled by the current Government. National backs rural communities, they shouldn’t be missing out on vital medical care. If we have the privilege to Govern in 2020, we will address the 200 GPs per year experts tell us are needed, especially in rural communities.
“Our discussion document contains a raft of proposals we want New Zealanders to give feedback on, but one thing is for certain, tertiary education under National will be targeted and evidence based with clear objectives.”
Hot on the heels of her refusal to release the ‘Let’s Get Wellington Moving’ letter, Julie Anne Genter has been embarrassed into releasing another letter, this time on measles, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“In response to written questions, Ms Genter stated that releasing the contents of a letter from the World Health Organisation sent in March this year, was ‘not in the public interest’.
“She then was forced to release the letter in Parliament today, bizarrely citing the large number of written questions that I sent her on measles as a reason for not doing so earlier.
“As well as a warning about the heightened emergence of measles, the WHO letter also made recommendations. Ms Genter said the Government was in the process of implementing these recommendations, and that some of them were already in progress when the letter was sent.
“It’s clear that’s not the case. Recommendation three from the WHO letter was ‘maintaining a reserve of measles vaccines and syringes’. But supply of the measles vaccine ran extremely short and even now 30-50 year olds still cannot access it.
“We already know that the Government missed other early warning signs on measles this year, including three outbreaks in January and February. These warning signs should have been a clear sign more vaccines were needed. Instead, none were ordered until it was too late – and almost 2,000 New Zealanders have contracted measles this year.
“The Government’s action on measles has been too little, too late. This is yet another example of an incompetent government that purports to be open and transparent being the exact opposite.”
The Government has finally taken up National’s suggestion to allow pharmacists to vaccinate against measles, but it’s a shame it sat on its hands for so long, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“Almost two months ago National called for pharmacists to be allowed to vaccinate for measles.
“It’s clear the Government recognises what a sensible measure it is to utilise the resources of our more than 800 vaccination-qualified pharmacists, but it’s a shame that’s taken it so long – the outbreak peaked weeks ago.
“Julie Anne Genter needs to explain why she took so long to allow pharmacists to vaccinate for measles when it was obvious more people need to be vaccinated and both pharmacists and National were calling for this to happen.
“The Government should have rolled out vaccinations as widely as possible, as early as possible. Instead, it ignored the early warning signs this year, from three outbreaks in January and February, to a letter from the World Health Organisation specifically advising of the risks from measles.
“Measles is a preventable disease and Julie Anne Genter should ensure as many Kiwis as possible are vaccinated.
“The previous National Government introduced health targets that resulted in higher immunisation rates. This Government scrapped them.
“Pharmacists have long been able to vaccinate for flu, but this simple change will allow many more Kiwis to be protected from measles, which has so far infected almost 2,000 New Zealanders this year.
“Finally smart, simple moves that will immediately increase access to vaccines are being taken up. National is pleased to have collaborated with pharmacists to get to this point.”
Julie Anne Genter has crowed about ‘a significant increase in MMR immunisations’ while nine outbreaks have swept the country on her watch, people have caught measles from hospital workers and we’ve exported measles to the Pacific, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“It’s disingenuous for the Minister to talk about more vaccines being administered. More than 1,800 New Zealanders have contracted measles this year and the Government’s response has been too little, too late.
“Ms Genter deprioritised 30-50 year olds in September when vaccines ran short, admitting today there was ‘unprecedented demand’. But the Government should have ordered more vaccines, sooner.
“It ignored the red flags about rising numbers of measles cases, starting with three outbreaks in January and February of this year and a warning from the World Health Organisation in April. We’ve now exported measles not only to the USA, but to the Pacific, including Tonga and Samoa which are especially vulnerable because of their low vaccination rates.
“This Government scrapped the health targets that led to higher immunisation rates, and ignored a call from National to allow pharmacists to vaccinate for measles, even though that would have improved access for hard-to-reach groups.
“Some of this year’s measles cases were picked up in Canterbury hospitals, and twenty DHB workers have contracted measles when they should have been immune. New Zealanders expect that frontline health workers have been vaccinated, both to protect their own health and because they work with at-risk patients.
“It’s time the Government got a handle on measles.”
The Government’s decision to extend the measles vaccine to all babies in Auckland over the age of six months is too little, too late, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The measles outbreak peaked weeks ago and the Government’s self-imposed vaccine shortage meant that those who needed to be vaccinated, couldn’t be. Vaccination is of the utmost importance, but it’s also important vaccines are available when we need them.
“The shortage was there because this Government ignored the warning signs: there were three outbreaks in January and February alone. That should have been a clear sign more vaccines would be needed as the number of measles cases continued to mount.
“Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter is desperately scrambling to look like she’s taking action on measles, but this is just too little, too late. National proposed allowing pharmacists to vaccinate for measles weeks ago in a move that would have widened access, but Ms Genter ignored our calls for action.
“Over 1,800 people have contracted measles this year already despite warnings to the Government from the World Health Organisation in April.
“What’s more, giving MMR vaccines to six-month-old babies can reduce seroconversion meaning a third vaccine may need to be given.
“The current measles outbreaks were preventable. This Government scrapped the health targets that resulted in higher immunisation rates, missed the early warning signs of an outbreak and then deprioritised 30-50 year olds when vaccines ran short.
“If the Government has enough vaccines now, it should be encouraging all New Zealanders to get vaccinated.”
The Government’s deprioritisation of 30-50 year olds to manage low vaccine stock could be leading to an average of around 20 new measles cases each week, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“Among age groups that have been able to access vaccines, the spread of measles has slowed, but among those aged between 30 and 50, the outbreak hasn’t let up. Last week there were 26 new cases when we would expect the number to be falling.
“At the end of August, Julie Anne Genter recommended everyone under 50 be vaccinated. Less than two weeks later, the Ministry of Health deprioritised 30-50 year olds in order to manage low vaccine stock. This remains the policy across almost all of New Zealand.
“Especially concerning is that the hospitalisation rate for this age group is over 20 per cent. Many of those people will have children or jobs they can’t afford to be away from.
“It’s important that children are protected, but 236 adults between 30 and 50 have contracted measles this year, and many of these cases could have been prevented through vaccination.
“The Government’s botched response to measles is hurting New Zealanders. Now the promised 100,000 vaccines have arrived in New Zealand, Ms Genter needs to update the guidelines and allow 30-50 year olds to be vaccinated.
“It wouldn’t have had to limit vaccine provision if it had heeded warning the warning signs and ordered more vaccines sooner. There were three outbreaks in January and February alone – this should have been a clear sign more vaccines would be needed.
“On top of that, the World Health Organisation sent warnings about the risks of measles to all governments in the Pacific in April.
“This Government ignored the signs, scrapped the health targets that resulted in higher vaccination rates and ignored National’s proposal to allow pharmacists to vaccinate for measles, which would have improved access.
“Julie Anne Genter needs to show leadership on measles so that New Zealanders are protected.”
The United States-based Center for Disease Control has revealed in an update that New Zealand has exported two cases of measles to the US this year, more than either India or China, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“This shows how serious the current measles outbreak is. There have been over 1,600 confirmed cases in New Zealand, more than across the entirety of the US, which had 1,249 confirmed cases as at 1 October.
“Given the seriousness and scale of the New Zealand outbreaks, it defies belief that the Government cannot offer vaccine protection to all of those at risk, including those over five who have not been vaccinated, or those between the ages of 30 and 50 who have only had one vaccine. These groups were all included in the vaccination guidelines until the Government deprioritised them to manage the shortage it caused.
“New Zealand now has a measles outbreak bigger than all of the US, is exporting cases abroad, and yet we still don’t have enough vaccines to ensure everyone is protected.
“The Government missed the early warning signs: three measles outbreaks in the first two months of this year and a warning from the World Health Organisation in April.
“It has scrapped the health targets that resulted in higher vaccination rates, and been asleep at the wheel as the current outbreak has taken hold.
“Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter needs to let the public know when all New Zealanders will be able to be vaccinated and reinstate health targets.
“National called for pharmacists to be able to vaccinate for measles a month ago, which would have improved access and ensured more Kiwis could be vaccinated, but the Government hasn’t implemented it.
“It’s time for Ms Genter to show some leadership on measles.”
Note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Update on Measles Cases and Outbreaks can be found here.
Julie Anne Genter needs to give the public clarity and certainty on when the next measles vaccines are arriving because Ministers and DHBs are not saying the same thing, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“It appears Ministers and DHBs are at odds over when these vaccines will arrive. The Auckland Regional Public Health Service has talked about ‘months’, but Ms Genter and Dr David Clark have repeatedly referred to ‘the coming weeks’.
“Yet young children who, according to the Minister, are a priority for vaccination, are having vaccination appointments postponed, and adults are being told they may have to wait until February 2020 to be vaccinated.
“The Government says this is incorrect. This confusion isn’t good enough.
“New Zealanders need certainty about when vaccine supplies will improve, and they need that certainty now.
“The Government has had multiple opportunities to be prepared, whether that was in January at the time of this year’s very first outbreak, or in April when the World Health Organisation contacted every nation in the Pacific to warn them of the risks posed from the resurgence of measles.
“Sixteen DHBs this year have had cases of measles linked to outbreaks, and the number of cases continues to mount.
“Ms Genter must immediately clarify when the next vaccines will be arriving and what steps she will take to allay the fears of Kiwis and safeguard their health in view of the numerous outbreaks that have swept the country.
“The spread of measles could have been managed earlier, and the signs were all there. The Government’s failure to order more vaccines sooner has imperilled the health of thousands of New Zealanders who can’t afford to wait for vaccines.”
New information about the extent of the Tuia 250 data breach shows the Prime Minister has yet more questions to answer when she returns to New Zealand, National’s Data and Cybersecurity spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“Replies to written questions have shown that the whole data breach is even worse than was first admitted by the Government. Initially they said 302 people were affected, but now we know that number’s 30 per cent higher, at 403.
“The extent of exposed children’s data has also been revealed, with 71 people under the age of 18 affected by the breach. This included passport details, driving licences, birth certificates, education-related documents and application forms.
“Even worse, the Ministry has admitted it doesn’t have a permanent log of who visited the website. There’s no way of knowing who’s accessed that personal information or how many times it was accessed.
“We also now know that the website’s developer was known to at least one staff member at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, and that the Ministry is reviewing the decisions and process relating to personal relationships and management of the Tuia 250 website.
“The Government has serious questions to answer here. The public deserves to know if the website developer was awarded the contract because of a personal relationship rather than following proper procurement processes.
“It’s clear the developer wasn’t up to the job, and it’s worse than we thought. The Ministry had a duty to ensure the Tuia 250 website would be secure and that people’s personal details would be safe.
“Children’s details were leaked on the internet and the Ministry doesn’t even know who’s seen them.”
The Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry suffered two data breaches only days before the Tuia 250 website debacle, National’s Data and Cybersecurity spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
In answers to written Parliamentary questions, the Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister confirmed that prior to the Tuia 250 website breach on August 22 – where more than 370 personal documents were compromised – two more breaches were reported, on July 31 and August 21.
One involved a misdirected email. The other resulted from incorrect settings on a database.
“The Tuia 250 website breach alone was unacceptable. Two more data breaches at the same ministry in such a short space of time is not good enough,” Dr Reti says.
“How could the Minister miss two cybersecurity red flags just days before the Tuia 250 data breach?
“We need to know exactly how many people were involved and what data was compromised. If the breaches include sensitive data, such as cell phone numbers for children under 18, then she needs to rethink her position on cybersecurity.
Other documents released to National raise concerns about the Tuia 250 breach.
“The number of people affected is estimated to be 302 but there was an emergency contact list among the data, and these people also had their details compromised,” Dr Reti says.
“It’s also suspicious that the Minister would not answer questions in Parliament about the personal relationship between the Tuia 250 developer and ‘one or more Ministry staff’.
“We know the developer is not on the Ministry’s approved list. This is looking more and more like a mate’s job gone wrong.”