The Ministry of Health must put more resources into the measles outbreak in Northland after a further five cases were confirmed on Tuesday, National’s Associate spokesperson for Health Dr Shane Reti says.
This takes the total cases in Northland to 40 and follows barely 24 hours after Dr Reti told media that Northland would be the next cab off the rank for measles.
“It isn’t rocket science to presume that an area next to the Auckland outbreak, with pockets of deprivation would likely become infected with the measles virus.
“I am calling on the Ministry to rapidly authorise the one in four Northland pharmacists who already vaccinate, to be able to administer the measles vaccine. The Ministry should also provide more resourcing to the DHB so that they can reach out to rural areas of Northland via schools and clinics and also to step up workplace vaccinations for adults. Finally, we need to reintroduce the National Health targets that David Clark removed in May 2018.
“I have checked with colleagues in Northland and supplies are marginal so the Ministry must give assurances that there are enough vaccines.
“It is a worrying sign that after the nationwide vaccine stock take yesterday, suddenly the priority to vaccinate adults under 50 had been deprioritised to 15 to 29 year olds. This age group has not become miraculously immune. Therefore it is dangerously likely the Ministry and PHARMAC are running out of vaccines and have changed the guidelines.
“This is looking like another botched vaccine response that the Government can add to its legacy, in keeping with the Northland Meningitis vaccination campaign, running out of flu vaccines in May and now supply problems with the measles vaccine.
“The Ministry must act now to address the spread of this illness, it is quite literally a matter of life or death.”
With the number of confirmed measles cases surpassing 1,000, the Government needs to act faster to ensure the lives of more New Zealanders are not put at risk, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“Time is of the essence here. We’re seeing dozens of new cases every day and the outbreak is spreading beyond just Auckland. Health professionals now are suggesting deaths will result from further inaction.
“With reports that contamination is spreading to Hamilton and other parts of the North Island, it is clear the Government needs to act with pace to ensure the measles outbreak is contained.
“The Government has let immunisation rates fall and is playing catch up on measles. It’s not catching up fast enough and as a result more New Zealanders are contracting measles.
“Vaccination-qualified pharmacists are ready to administer the MMR vaccine. Over 800 pharmacists have been saying for days that they want to help. National raised this as a possibility on Monday, but the Government has sat on its hands.
“The Government should be rolling out vaccination programmes in as many schools as possible, to ensure children are vaccinated, and in workplaces, to ensure that as many adults are protected as possible. There are many adults who never received their MMR booster and aren’t fully immune.
“The outbreak’s now got so bad that the United States has put out a travel advisory on the public health risk of New Zealand’s measles outbreak.
“David Clark scrapped health targets that led to higher immunisation rates. Under National, immunisation rates were improving.
“This outbreak was preventable. Now it’s underway, the Government needs to speed up its response to bring it to an end and ensure that New Zealand remains measles free.
“National supports proactive policy measures that will keep New Zealanders safe.”
The Ministry of Health should allow pharmacists to administer MMR vaccines to curtail the effects of the current measles outbreak, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“Up to a quarter of pharmacists in my local region of Northland are vaccination-qualified and in times of a serious outbreak such as this, we should be making use of that resource.
“Vaccination-qualified pharmacists are currently able to vaccinate for flu injections but are not reimbursed for vaccines such as the measles vaccine.
“This Government has already got in the way of higher immunisation rates by scrapping health targets – we shouldn’t let its reimbursement policy get in the way of vaccinating children.
“DHBs have portable cold chain storage containers available for pharmacies that need more space to keep vaccines at the right temperature. There’s no reason not to allow pharmacists to administer measles vaccinations.
“Pharmacists are accessible for people who may be transient, not registered with a GP or otherwise face difficulties in accessing healthcare and we know that these people are the least likely to be vaccinated.
“It’s important that the Government mobilises every available option to bring this outbreak to an end, because right now, it’s only getting worse.”
Vulnerable workers will lose legal job protection as the Government pushes ahead with vocational reforms which bypass the Employment Relations Act, National’s spokesperson for Tertiary Education Dr Shane Reti says.
“The Education (Vocational Education Reform) Bill passed its first reading today and is even more damaging than expected.
“Minister Hipkins has written into the Bill that Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act, which protects vulnerable workers from losing their jobs when an entity is reconfigured, will be overridden. When questioned in Parliament on this, the Minister confirmed ‘they’d be made redundant’.
“Cleaners, food workers and laundry staff have been shafted and will be amongst the thousands to lose jobs under this nasty ideological restructure.
“The biggest vocational upheaval in 30 years will see 16 polytechnics condensed into one mega-polytechnic resulting in the loss of 18,000 learners, 2,300 apprentices and a loss of autonomy for all organisations involved.
“The Minister has put logic to one side as he takes an axe to the system. The facts are that while polytechnic numbers have gone down, apprentices and learners in the vocational system have gone up over the past five years.
“Hard earned assets from local polytechs will be hoovered up by the mega-polytechnic and successful institutions such as SIT and Otago will be punished in the restructure, rather than lessons being learnt from their achievements.
“If elected, National would return assets taken by this Government back to local people and return local decision making back to local polytechnics. We appreciate changes need to be made to ensure we have a world class system, but this lazy centralised approach is not the answer.
“National will fight for local autonomy in these ideological reforms.”
Seven of the country’s regional polytechnics will merge ahead of the mega-merger which will result in job losses and a loss of autonomy, National’s spokesperson for Tertiary Education Dr Shane Reti says.
“All 16 polytechnics will become one entity called the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology as part of the radical tertiary education reforms. But in the lead up to this there will be a merger between seven entities.
“The seven polytechnics will undergo what’s known as a ‘structural merge’, in an attempt to hoover up some administrative savings.
“WelTec and Whitireira will become one entity with one chief executive and one name. This will mean job losses as the two entities merge together. Unitec and MIT will also merge with the same consequences.
“Those mergers have long been considered a suitable collaboration as they’re at least in the same regions, however the other planned merger is completely off the wall.
“Tai Poutini on the West Coast will merge with Northtec in Whangarei and the Western Institute of Technology in Taranaki.
“This merger into a ‘semi-autonomous regional operating model’ has everyone asking why these polytechnics at opposite ends of the country are being thrown together.
“NorthTec and Wintec have previously explored a collaboration but the distance and different cultures eventually made it too difficult so it is hard to see how this is feasible when Whangarei, Greymouth and New Plymouth are so far apart.
“The Tertiary Education Commission identified the risk of the reforms not achieving the desired outcomes as ‘likely’ and Treasury and the Ministry of Education assessed the Regulatory Impact Assessment as ‘not fully convincing’.
“National’s approach is clear, rather than undermining the expertise of the regions, we should be building confidence and trust in them to deliver within their communities. If we are elected in 2020 we will return community assets back to communities.
“Chris Hipkins needs to provide immediate clarity around the possibility of these future mergers. Uncertainty is costing jobs, learner numbers and international student revenue.”
The Government will rely on the failure of its own fees-free policy to fund the establishment of one mega polytechnic, National’s Spokesperson for Tertiary Education Dr Shane Reti says.
“Official documents show the massive cost of the vocational reform mega merger will be funded by reprioritising ongoing underspends in the failing fees-free programme.
“Cabinet documents forecasted 80,000 learners taking up fees-free last year, when in fact only 50,000 students enrolled, causing the $2.8 billion program to return $197 million back to the Government to reallocate.
“However even that reallocation will not meet the eye watering establishment costs of the polytechnic reforms, costed at up to $400 million. That means the rest will need to be pulled from other areas of tertiary education.
“Industry collaboration projects, scholarships, awards and university programmes such as the University Led Innovation programme, were cancelled in Budget 2019 to come up with the cash and now we know why.
“These reforms show the Government is more interested in ideological changes than meaningful results, with the $400 million establishment of the mega polytechnic more than the cost of treating all New Zealand women with advanced breast cancer drugs for the next decade.
“If elected, National would return polytechnic assets taken by this Government and give them back to communities.
“The Minister must go back to the drawing board as his vocational policy is likely to cost jobs, slash participation and hit the taxpayer hard in the pocket.”
The Government’s vocational education reform is looking like the next fees-free flop as recently released official papers show the one mega polytechnic will grab cash from polytechnics, National’s Spokesperson for Tertiary Education Dr Shane Reti says.
“Under the reforms cash reserves will be held by the one mega polytechnic who will then decide how the cash is spent in the regions.
“New Zealand First are saying the money will be spent regionally, which is true, but what the money is spent on will be determined by the mega polytechnic and there are no regulations or parameters around this discretion. Their money can even be used to pay for the cost of the reforms they predominantly oppose.
“The reforms are estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars in establishment costs alone, all which can be siphoned from polytechnics as part of the merger. In the latest annual reports cash held by polytechnics include ARA $12 million, Toi Ohomai $6.5 million, SIT $4.4 million and Northtec $3.6 million. Across the whole sector there is nearly $60 million available as part of the cash grab.
“Polytechnics are too scared to speak out as there are clauses stating that during the 2 to 3 year establishment phase, it is actually the Minister who will have final sign off on their cash grab reserves.
“I am urging the Minister to act now as he can still make changes that guarantee regional polytechnics control over what their cash is spent on and a guarantee that it cannot be spent to pay for the cost of these reforms which officials say are unlikely to achieve the desired outcomes.
“If elected, National will return polytechnic assets taken by this Government and give them back to communities.
“We support apprentices and regional polytechnics and we will fight for their voice and autonomy in these devastating education reforms.”
A table of the polytechnic cash assets at risk can be found here.
The next fees-free failure is unfolding as Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) documents released on Thursday show the polytechnic reforms are likely to fail with extreme impact, National Party Spokesperson for Tertiary Education Dr Shane Reti says.
“TEC’s risk analysis of the Government’s review into vocational education describes the review’s potential impact as ranging from extreme to major. Workforce disruption, decrease in student numbers, unmet needs of industry and unmet needs of the regions are determined to be ‘almost certain’. The final nail in the coffin is that the model will most likely not even meet its own goals.
“I have never seen such a negative risk analysis from officials, it is baffling that the Minister has gone ahead with the reforms based on this advice. Establishing a single mega polytechnic despite 80 per cent of public submissions being against this, is unconscionable.
“This is another fees-free disaster in the making within the same portfolio with the same Minister at the helm, and billions of tax payer dollars at risk.
“National knows how important polytechs are to regional New Zealand, and appreciates changes need to be made to ensure we have a world class system. This lazy centralised approach is not the answer.
“National will return polytechnic assets and decision making back to communities and return apprentices to industry.
“This is too much and too fast. The Minister needs to go back to the drawing board at least until Treasury signs off that the desired outcomes will be met.
“Treasury wouldn’t back this and so neither should Chris Hipkins.”
The following is a table from Treasury’s Programme Business Case for the Review of Vocational Education.
Participation in vocational education drops
Needs of industry and employers not met
Needs of regions are not met
New model does not achieve desired outcomes
The Government’s polytechnic and industry announcement today will cost thousands of jobs and may be the death knell for some polytechnics, National’s spokesperson for Tertiary Education Dr Shane Reti says.
“Moving apprentices back to polytechnics and creating one mega polytechnic will cost at least 1300 jobs in industry and probably as much again in polytechnics.
“Employers are telling us they will cease to employ apprentices next year if apprentices go back to polytechnics. This is a big step backwards especially when our construction sector is crying out for apprentices.
“The Government has brutally dismissed the concerns of industry and businesses who raised serious issues with polytechnic training. Industry understands the needs of industry best and who will be the best fit for them, but Mr Hipkins is blatantly ignoring them.
“Now the Minister is turning his axe to polytechnics. Under these reforms well performing polytechnics from the Southern Institute of Technology to Otago Polytechnic will lose the very essence of their successful and innovative local decision making.
“The reforms dissolve polytechnics into hollow and meaningless ‘legacy’ polytechnics. This ideology will destroy tradition, decimate organisational knowledge and the final indignity will be the mega polytechnic spending community gifted cash and assets.
“This is devastating for polytechnics and their staff and students.
“Every aspect of the vocational education sector is under attack. Apprentices are being sent back to polytechnics, polytechnics are being amalgamated into legacy campuses, jobs are being lost, cash and community assets will be ring-fenced and regional autonomy is being stripped away.
“These reforms will be disastrous for regional education and apprenticeships. Mr Hipkins is pushing ahead with ideology over what is best for students and regional New Zealand.
“National will empower the regions to make decisions around what they teach, where they teach and how they teach. We will return polytechnic assets taken by Labour and give them back to communities. We will return apprentices to industry.
“National supports apprentices and regional polytechnics and we will fight for their voice and autonomy in these ideological educational reforms.”
Pfizer officials appearing before the Health Select Committee yesterday revealed that 30,000 Meningitis vaccines were available to PHARMAC during the recent outbreak in Northland, National MP for Whangarei and Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“Pfizer offered 30,000 vaccines to PHARMAC who didn’t even get back to them until weeks after a campaign had been signed off to only vaccinate children aged between 9 months and 4 years, and 13 to 19-year-olds.
“The limited vaccination campaign in Northland was an attempt to save money – but these vaccines will expire shortly so they need to be used.
“Dr Clark and PHARMAC had a moral and clinical obligation to tell officials and make the vaccines available. Instead, they engaged in penny-pinching at the expense of vulnerable Kiwi kids.
“My colleague Matt King, MP for Northland, and I brought a petition on behalf of Northland residents to address this injustice.
“The vaccines were available then and they’re available now. If they don’t get used, they’ll go to waste. Why won’t the Minister let us vaccinate more Northland kids?
“The Meningitis outbreak has now affected five Northland children, including a 7-month-old baby.
“The Government has a moral obligation to immediately release the remaining vaccines to all Northland children under the age of 20, to ensure that they are protected from the devastating effects of Meningitis W.”