“There was a time in New Zealand when health professionals like the legendary Doctor Smith created the first health system in the Hokianga without a single bureaucrat in sight. Until health management was corporatised under National 20 years ago the Coast had some outstanding no-nonsense characters in the public system but the intervening period has seen such people increasingly undermined by irrelevant bureaucracy and absurd political agendas.” – David Tranter, 9 January 2013
After the spectacular cock-ups by Education Minister, Hekia Parata, it seems that the Health sector is next in line for the “National Treatment”.
Tony Ryall has demanded that the Health Budget be cut by $30 million this financial year (see: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery) Cuts to elective procedures that National’s spin-meisters “deemed to be of little benefit” are being planned – and details released to the media during the new season/holiday period when the public’s attention is focused on relaxation, barbecues, beaches, and “sinking a few coldies“.
Most of the mainstream media is also still “on holiday”, with minimal current affairs and investigative reporting being carried out by Radio NZ, TV3, and TV1. Only print media is reporting National’s covert cost-cutting programme – and even then, the Herald seems to be printing comments such as,
The National Health Committee has to find savings of $30 million this financial year from elective procedures deemed to be of little benefit.
The money would be used for smarter investment in other parts of the health system.
Note no quotation marks anywhere through those two paragraphs. The statements are presented as reported fact – not as government media statement reflecting National Party policy.
This appears to be a re-run of National’s disastrous “health reforms” of the late 1990s,
By the time Labour came to power in late 1999, the public Health system was a mess. National had gutted healthcare through funding cuts; increased management-bureacracy; closures; low salaries for front-line staff; and a slavish adherence to right wing dogma over the needs of communities and people.
The new incoming Labour-led government had much to re-build,
(When National supporters talk of Labour “wasting money” during their nine years in government – this is what they are actually referring to: the re-building of our public services.)
Note the weasel-words from Roger Sowry, National’s health spokesperson, in the above article,
Roger Sowry dismissed the announcement as a cynical, political move to hose down hotspots in health, including angst over waiting lists, DHB debts and health workers striking for higher pay.
“It’s about politics. It’s not about the patient. It’s about saying we’ve got a problem with health, we can get a story out that there’s a big lot of money coming down the barrel – it’s about buying a comfort level for the next election.”
Roger Sowry should know about “hosing down hotspots in health, including angst over waiting lists, DHB debts and health workers striking for higher pay” – that is precisely the mess that National left this country up until they were booted out in 1999.
The above stories are just a tiny few of the headlines from the 1990s.
Here are a few more that Mr Sowry might recognise – or should recognise. They all happened on his watch,
That was the way we were in the 1990s; hospital budgets slashed resulting in chronic under-funding; growing privatisation of healthcare; medical staff leaving New Zealand; bureacratic management growing; and people like Rau Williams, Colin Morrison, and others dying on waiting lists… all while a National-led government blundered on.
Things became so bad that even medical professions like the Royal Australasian College of Opthalmologists took to placing advertisements in newspapers, absolving themselves of all blame and responsibility for the country’s chaotic and collapsing health system,
And while medical professions around the country distanced themselves from National’s non-stop bungling, others were jumping in, keen to exploit people’s fears and uncertainties for profit,
“If you feel uncertain about the future…”
Talk about manipulating people’s fears.
What sort of society were we becoming that the callous exploitation of people’s misery was somehow acceptable behaviour?! Was this the path that New Zealand had taken?
Or was our collective disgust finally being voiced with this statement,
“I get a sense that the public is saying in quite a specific way, enough’s enough, we can’t take any more, you’ve got to stop, you’ve gone to far.” – Ian Powell, Association for Salaried Medical Specialists, on Health cuts by the National-led government, 1 November 1997
The Minister of Health at the time, Bill English, and his colleagues – many of whom are still in Parliament (like Tony Ryall) – have much to answer for. For this was their legacy.
It now appears that they have not learned the lessons of that dark decade.
Oh dear lord, not again!!
It appears that National may be hell-bent of repeating it’s ghastly performance of the 1990s – especially the late ’90s, where people died as a result of the then-National-government’s ineptitude.
And didn’t we go through a similar exercise in reducing grommet operations for our children in 1997 and 1998?!?! Oh yes, we did.
The three Herald articles above repeat the same mantra over and over again,
The National Health Committee, which is responsible to Health Minister Tony Ryall, is trying to find $30 million of savings in the public health system for reinvestment in more effective or better-targeted treatments.
What investment could possibly be “more effective or better-targeted “ than treating glue ear in children???
What “investment” could be better than removing a potential barrier for children to learn at school – a barrier called deafness, caused by glue-ear?!
The so-called “National Health Committee” are not new to this kind of narrow, anti-social thinking. They’ve been around for quite a few years and were involved in National’s blundering healthcare “reforms” – policies which led to the needless deaths of Colin Morrison, Rau Williams, and others.
This media report in the “Sunday Star Times”, on 12 October 1997, illustrates the sort of repulsive “philosophy” which this nasty little ‘Quango’ comes up with, from time to time.
Source: Sunday Star Times
Note the comments high-lighted in red,
Patient charges could be increased to pay for more health care, according to a draft report by the high-powered Government adviser the National Health Committee.
If user part-charges were high enough, the report said people’s ability and willingness to pay them would be a way of deciding which demands for publicly-funded services should be met.
Make no mistake. What these invisible, faceless, nameless bureacrats were suggesting to the then-National government was that raising “user part-charges” would deter certain classes of people from accessing the health service.
For example, if you were poor. Or unemployed. Or a solo-parent. Or a pensioner. Perhaps Samoan or Maori. This was the power of the State being used to determine who lives and who dies – not on clinical grounds – but on your ability to pay.
The article goes on to state,
The report said funding for health and disability services should be directed at services which:
- Showed good effectiveness or benefit with those standing to gain the most receiving services first.
- Are the best value for public money.
- Are a fair use of resources
It said people must be prepared to made trade-offs to achieve a sensible mix of proven, cost-effective services.
I don’t know about the reader, but these remarks chill me to the bone. These are bean-counters giving advice to the Minister of Health; advice which measures outcomes according to “ the best value for public money” and if “user part-charges were high enough… people’s ability and willingness to pay them would be a way of deciding” who has access to life-giving medical care.
The only thing missing here is what do they advise we do with the corpses of people who did not have the “ability and willingness to pay” for “ high enough user part-charges“.
Perhaps ovens…? User-pays of course. With the bill for incineration being forwarded to next-of-kin…
Which leads us to the next question;
The “National Health Committee” – Who Are They?
Who are the so-called “National Health Committee” and what are their qualifications to be making recommendations on our healthcare system?
The Committee comprises of these kindly-looking folk,
Mrs Anne Kolbe
- specialist paediatric surgeon and an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland’s School of Medicine.
Dr Mark O’Carroll
- is a Respiratory Physician at Auckland City Hospital with subspecialty interests in Cystic Fibrosis, Lung Transplantation and Interventional Pulmonology.
Mr Craig Climo
Mr Ross Laidlaw
- retired corporate lawyer.
Ms Sharon Mariu
- consultancy in strategic and business development.
Mr Alex Price
- Chief Executive of Fertility Associates [...] He holds a chemical engineering degree, an MBA from IMD, Switzerland and a graduate certificate in reproductive medicine from the University of New South Wales.
Of the six committee members, only two have medical qualifications as practititioners. The rest are ex-lawyers, bean-counters, pricey consultants, and business-types.
These are the bean-counters – faceless and nameless no more – who are now suggesting that savings in the country’s Health budget could be made by effectively stealing $30 million away from our children who need grommets for their ears.
The committee members – with their usual euphemisms – called the cost-cutting, “disinvestment“. I kid you not. See: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery
So taking away a surgical procedure which gives our children a better chance at school – because they can actually hear what is being said in the classroom – is “disinvestment“?!
I call it naked selfishness and thieving from the vulnerable. So this is what the term “stealing candy from a baby” means.
I think every one of these “kindly-looking folk” should hang their heads in shame and resign their arses from this odious little quango. We have enough child poverty and poverty-related disease in this country without people like this lot, funded by us the taxpayer, adding to it with revolting policy-advice.
The New Year is just barely over a week old, and already we are reading stories of National’s intentions toward us and our children.
How many will suffer and/or die this time?
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2013 at 1:45
From: Frank Macskasy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject:Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall?
To: “Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz” <Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz>
Bcc: Chris Laidlaw RNZ <email@example.com>,
Dominion Post <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Daily News <email@example.com>, Daily Post <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Hutt News <email@example.com>, Jim Mora <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Kim Hill <email@example.com>,
Morning Report <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
NZ Herald <email@example.com>,
Nine To Noon RNZ <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Otago Daily Times <email@example.com>,
“firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>, Q+A <Q+A@tvnz.co.nz>,
Southland Times <firstname.lastname@example.org>, TVNZ News <email@example.com>,
The Press <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
The Wellingtonian <email@example.com>,
Waikato Times <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Wairarapa Times-Age <email@example.com>,
For the Health Reporter:
Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall?
The “National Health Committee” recently recommended stripping $30 million from the Health budget by cutting back on grommet operations for our children. According to the NHC, the insertion of grommets is the only elective procedure specifically targeted for “disinvestment”.
Question: Who are the “National Health Committee” ?
Question: What advice did they give to the National government in the late 1990s, which effectively would have meant high “part charges” for medical care, and more people dying needlessly?
Question: Did National try cutting back on grommet operations in the 1990s? What were the consequences?
Question: Why is the “National Health Committee” – an unelected quango that comprises of four business/consultant/lawyer-types and two actual medicos – giving advice to a government that might result in suffering and poor education outcomes for our children?
Question: why has a blogger demanded that the entire “National Health Committee” resign their arses out of that quango?
It’s surprising what one can uncover with a bit of digging around.-Frank
NZ Herald: Govt eyes cuts to elective surgery
NZ Herald: The Hobbit: should we have paid?
Dominion Post: Children need changes now – commissioner
Previous related blogposts
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