A release of official documents confirms the Ardern-Peters Government does not consider further research into farmer suicide to be a high priority, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“Documents relating to a funding application for Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) show how officials successfully persuaded the Minister of Health David Clark and the Minister for Primary Industries Damien O’Connor that further investment into farm related suicide research is not a priority at this stage,” Dr Reti says.
"This astounding admission continues the Government’s dismissive attitude towards rural mental health – further compounded by the refusal to commit to a school of rural health.
"A statement like this in the context of the current Mycoplasma Bovis incursion defies belief. That the Government would pull funding and deprioritise farmer suicide research at this time is shocking.
“It's all very well to hold a general inquiry into mental health, but the rural community has specific needs now – and RHAANZ was geared up to deliver to those needs.
“RHAANZ is an organisation that stood up and delivered support when the GFC hurt rural communities. The documents show that the ministries of Health and Primary Industries ‘value RHAANZ as an important member of the rural health sector and value their contribution’ and yet that hasn't stopped the Ministers from withdrawing sustainable funding.
“In response to this decision, former Dairy Woman of the Year and Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger has launched a petition seeking public support to save rural healthcare services https://barbarakuriger.national.org.nz/save_our_rural_healthcare_services
"Ask the public what is more important – $1 billion to go towards foreign affairs and diplomats or research into farmer suicide – I’m pretty certain the Government will know the answer so I urge it to do the right thing and step up and make rural mental health a priority during this critical time,” Dr Reti says.
National is urging the Government to support the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) with ongoing funding, National Party associate spokesperson for Health Dr Shane Reti and National Party spokesperson for Rural Communities Matt King say.
“National recognises that rural communities in New Zealand have different needs and face special challenges, especially when it comes to accessing health services,” Dr Reti says.
“We support the RHAANZ’s request for ongoing operating funding outside their existing contracts to ensure that rural communities have access to the services that they need.
“RHAANZ provides information, advocacy and solutions to issues that affect the health and wellbeing of rural communities. It also provides access to vital support for rural mental health including suicide prevention workshops and clinical champions in mental health.
“The Minister of Rural Communities Damien O’Connor and Minister of Health David Clark’s reluctance to commit to RHAANZ shows that they have no understanding of the challenges involved in providing health care in rural communities.”
National Party spokesperson for Rural Communities Matt King says that it is greatly concerning that the RHAANZ may be forced to begin the wind-down process within the next fortnight.
“We understand the funding bid was put to the Minister of Rural Communities Damien O’Connor and Minister of Health David Clark last November and to date RHAANZ have heard nothing,” Mr King says.
“RHAANZ provides support to around 600,000 New Zealanders and we encourage the Ministers to confirm that they will fund RHAANZ urgently.
“At the moment we are unsure what will happen to the RHAANZ’s 16 regional mental health clinical champions and medical director who help rural communities to access professional mental health services, as well as the RHAANZ’s general function to identify and resource solutions for rural health.
“The Health Minister is also refusing to confirm his support of a School of Rural Medicine, which a National-led Government had committed to establish within three years.
“This coalition Government claims to be the champion of regional and rural New Zealand but delaying any commitment to RHAANZ does not support this claim.”
The Minister for Health David Clark has acknowledged that there is a conflict of interest with the independent reviewer of the $90 million National Oracle Solution IT programme, but is yet to release the details, National Party associate spokesperson for Health Dr Shane Reti says.
“Under prolonged questioning in the House this week, the Health Minister admitted that a conflict exists with the independent reviewer of the National Oracle solution project but suggests that because it had been declared there is nothing to worry about,” Dr Reti says.
“Even if, as he suggests, there is nothing to worry about with Deloitte’s review of their subsidiary company’s programme he needs to release the conflicts statement so that the sector can have confidence in the programme.
“This is a vital project that will lead to savings for the health sector and improvements in patient care, but the delays are causing significant uncertainty and cost to the Health sector.
“The Minister’s vague assurances that the conflict has been managed are not enough. The taxpayer can reasonably expect to hold the Minister to account for what may be millions of dollars.
“I am asking for the Minister to release the reviewer’s conflict of interest statement so that once the review of the programme is complete and the programme is finalised the sector can have confidence in the National Oracle Solution going forward.”
National Party Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti has revealed a supposed ‘independent review’ of the failing $90 million National Oracle Solution programme is, in fact, being carried out by the owner of the company that installed it in the first place.
“Health Minister David Clark describes the programme as having ‘challenges’ and needing an independent review but has then overseen the appointment of Deloitte to carry that out,” Dr Reti says.
“However, Deloitte owns the IT company, Asparona, which helped implement the project, meaning it potentially bears some of the responsibility for the issues we are seeing today.
“I don’t think it takes a genius to see a clear conflict of interest here.
“This is at best a lack of oversight that shows that Dr Clark has no idea what is going on and at worst an attempt to avoid real scrutiny of a $90 million-plus project which has real promise but has gone off the rails.
“This project is funded by DHBs to provide a replacement for ageing finance and supply chain systems. If implemented right it would allow the sector to significantly reduce non-labour costs, and invest more in patient care.
“But it is clearly being mismanaged on the Health Minister’s watch.
“This self-titled ‘open and transparent Government’ is appearing less and less so by the day and undermining the independence of this review is just one in a long list of questionable actions.
“The Minister’s poor judgement and the clear conflict of interest here calls into question his other appointments and the public will rightly be asking what else he has got wrong?
“The Minister needs to sort this quickly by appointing an independent body to review the National Oracle Solution project. He also needs to urgently explain how this contract came to be awarded and seek an assurance from his ministry that its processes for awarding contracts are robust because this just doesn't pass the sniff test.”
National MPs Dr Shane Reti and Matt King have today launched a campaign to ensure the Auckland to Whangarei four-lane Road of National Significance proceeds as planned by the previous National Government.
“The previous National-led Government had committed to a large number of important regional highway projects right around New Zealand, including the delivery of a full four-lane motorway from Auckland to Whangarei,” Dr Reti says.
“Work has already started on the Puhoi to Warkworth section, however, Transport Minister Phil Twyford has indicated a number of projects such as the remaining four lanes from Warkworth to Whangarei are under review.
“The Northland Regional Action Plan was developed by key stakeholders including regional and district councils and through it, Northlanders determined that a four-lane highway from Auckland to Whangarei would provide the biggest boost to the Northland economy in recent times.”
“The Northland region benefits from a sub-tropical climate, fertile land, spectacular scenery and coastline. The region has significant potential which is mostly dependent on State Highway One,” Mr King says.
“The four-lane motorway would be a game changer for Northland providing a safer, more reliable and resilient State Highway One for local communities, visitors and freight. It will be the gateway to the north unlocking the potential and allowing business and people to thrive.
“Our local National team will be pushing the Government to commit to the project and we encourage the public to show their support and ensure our region’s voice is heard loud and clear by signing our petition.
“We will be taking this online and physical petition to present to the Government later this year.”
The petition can be found here.
Labour’s policy to ring-fence pharmaceutical funding is widely considered to be bad news for Pharmac’s funding model, National Party Associate Health Spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The Ministry of Health warned the Health Select Committee before the election that ‘there is strong evidence suggesting that ring-fenced funding for medicines would undermine Pharmac’s business model’.
“Yet David Clark is still pursuing their policy to implement an interim drugs fund despite the Ministry of Health, Pharmac and the Health Select Committee all agreeing that it may reduce Pharmac’s buying power.
“In the Briefing to Incoming Ministers Pharmac warns of the failed UK early Access to Medicines Scheme and goes on to say that a similar scheme in New Zealand would ‘make unpicking existing arrangements challenging’.
“When asked whether ring-fenced funding undermines the Pharmac model the Minister touts the successful Pharmac rare medicines trial as an example, however, earlier this month the Health Select Committee tabled their report on a rare medicines petition where they suggested that the model was not effective for Pharmac’s bottom line.
“Not only are the Ministry specifically saying that Pharmac will be negatively affected but even David Clark’s own colleagues on the select committee unanimously agreed with the report in its entirety.
“We need to ensure that the learnings from the Pharmac rare medicines trial are not ignored and take notice of the warnings from officials and international experience.”
The new Minister of Health is displaying an appalling lack of responsibility by walking away from an outbreak of mumps in Auckland during the Rugby League World Cup, and the consequent spread into the Pacific Islands, National’s Dr Shane Reti and Alfred Ngaro say.
Associate Spokesperson for Health, Dr Reti and Pacific Peoples Spokesperson Alfred Ngaro are concerned at the current outbreak that is affecting several hundred Aucklanders – especially young Pasifika people – and the likelihood Pacific Island players and officials that were here during the recent tournament may have been exposed.
When asked whether he will take responsibility for mumps caught by the Pacific Island players in Auckland during the tournament, David Clark said “individual countries are responsible for their own immunisation programmes”.
“The Minister seems to be saying he doesn’t care if visitors from the Pacific take mumps back to vulnerable people when they return home,” Dr Reti says.
“There are currently 1,600 recorded cases in Tonga. Is the Minister saying that the complications of this disease such as deafness, sterility and meningitis don’t matter in Pacific Island people?”
New Zealand will provide $1 billion in aid to the Pacific in the three years ending next June, much of it aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of people in the Pacific Islands.
Mr Ngaro says it’s unclear whether the Minister has even placed a phone call to the Tongan Ministry of Health to offer any assistance.
“I think New Zealanders would expect our Government to help prevent the spread of diseases the Pacific Islands – especially if they are driven by an outbreak in New Zealand.
“The Minister could call his Tongan counterpart, offer passenger arrivals and departures information and maybe even look at how we might help their vaccination programme.
“With a new aid triennium being planned we’re calling on the Government to place the necessary funding to support vaccination programmes for our near neighbours,” Mr Ngaro says.
“New Zealanders enjoyed the vibrancy the Tongan rugby league team brought to our shores - now let’s meet our responsibilities for keeping them safe and well.”
“The Minister stood and acknowledged the visiting Pacific Island delegation in Parliament yesterday, now he needs to stand up and acknowledge some responsibility to them for mumps caught in New Zealand,” Mr Ngaro says.
The new Labour Government has shown yet again its high-handed approach to handling information and its complete disregard for transparency, National’s Data spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The new Minister for Social Development doesn’t consider it worthwhile to assure New Zealanders that their data will be used ‘wisely and well’,” Dr Reti says.
“I recently submitted a written question to Carmel Sepuloni asking her “What role does the Minister have in assuring the New Zealand public that Government-held data is being used wisely and well?”
“The Minister effectively replied that she couldn’t justify the time required to answer the question.
“And when I asked the same question in the House yesterday, I received a 20 second reply on her behalf. Is 20 seconds seriously all the assurance this new Government can give the public?”
Dr Reti says the success of modern data frameworks is wholly reliant on trust.
“For the Minister to decline to explain to the public that she will use its data ‘wisely and well’, is a missed opportunity to reassure New Zealanders that she can be trusted with their data,” he says.
“Is she further refusing to answer the question because she can’t guarantee that she will use it wisely?”
Dr Reti says that in his role as National’s data spokesperson, he aims to increase public trust in Government-held data and data infrastructures.
He has written to Ms Sepuloni offering to help build that trust.
“I hope the Minister will reflect on her glib response to my question and improve on her accountability to New Zealanders,” Dr Reti says.
National Party Data Spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says the Government will miss the biggest opportunity in a generation to transform the lives of the most vulnerable New Zealanders if it walks away from data collection.
“The new Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni will be taking a major step backwards if she follows through with her plan to stop using data to target investment to those who need assistance,” Dr Reti says.
“A lot of work has been done with the Privacy Commissioner and key stakeholders to ensure safe and appropriate collection of data. But rather than continue this work it seems the new Government would prefer to revert back to a stale model of blind spending.
“It’s no good just throwing money around and hoping for the best. Data can tell us exactly who needs what help and using that data provides the best opportunity to make a real difference for our most vulnerable.
“It’s a shame the Government is not prepared to continue the work on data protection and use policy. The most vulnerable New Zealanders have the most to lose from this missed opportunity.
“The Government should look to address issues around the data of vulnerable people instead of not looking at all.”
Consumers could be set to receive greater protection and decreased costs after Whangarei MP Dr Shane Reti’s private members bill passed its first reading in Parliament on Wednesday.Read more