Govt highlights benefits for Tauranga in funding deal – but (in smaller type) beneficiaries learn they must repay the debt

Buzz from the Beehive

Geography, ethnicity and your occupation will determine the extent to which you might benefit from the latest hamper of goodies to be distributed by the Beehive.

But be warned. Being a beneficiary may result in levies being imposed.

Roughly interpreting the latest announcements, the beneficiaries are (or appear to be)- 

  • Tauranga people (but there’s a taxing sting in the tail); 
  • Homeless families in Tauranga’s suburbs (but not many and they must be Maori);   
  • Rural people living in just some parts of the country and engaged in the right work;
  • A few favoured food and fibre producers;
  • An even more select group – some Maori businesses in the primary sector;  
  • People needing mental health services (but they must live in the Gisborne area).

The press statements don’t put it quite that  way, of course:  Continue reading “Govt highlights benefits for Tauranga in funding deal – but (in smaller type) beneficiaries learn they must repay the debt”

Govt amputates the country’s 20 DHBs in its health restructuring but consults the Treaty to prescribe a balm for Maori

Health, health and health were the subjects of three ministerial posts  – two of them were speeches –  on the Beehive website this morning.

They spell out the government’s plans for comprehensively overhauling the country’s health system.

They also step up the pace in the government’s perturbing programme of creating an “us” and “them” racial divide.

In his speech, Health Minister Andrew Little says he is laying out “a plan to create a truly national public health service”. National, yes, but with a separatist component.

Little described it as a system that takes health services to the people who need them, no matter who they are or where they live, and which draws on the best of what we have now, but will enable doctors, nurses and other health workers to concentrate on patients “instead of battling bureaucracy”.

Then he insisted the restructuring “will reinforce Te Tiriti principles and obligations”.

Readers who check out the three articles of the Treaty for guidance on shaping a health system will be hard pressed to find what this should entail.

Little also brought the concept of a Treaty partnership into considerations:  he said the system must work in true partnership with Māori to improve services and achieve equitable health outcomes. Continue reading “Govt amputates the country’s 20 DHBs in its health restructuring but consults the Treaty to prescribe a balm for Maori”

Wraps must be removed from critique of NZ’s capability for quickly tracing the contacts of Covid-19 victims

The public health system must be capable of quickly tracing all people with whom newly identified coronavirus victims have been in contact.

This capability must be a critical element in ministers’ video-link deliberations today as the Cabinet decides whether the country is ready to step down from level four to level three in the campaign to conquer Covid-19.

The government should also publish any analysis of this capability by people with relevant expertise.

Some of the experts – we are told – have raised serious concerns.

According to a weekend report in the New Zealand Herald:  

Scientists are sounding the alarm behind closed doors at the Ministry of Health over New Zealand’s readiness to move to more relaxed pandemic settings.

Their concerns centre on the ministry’s ability to rapidly trace close contacts of Covid-19 cases and an outdated surveillance system – described by one insider as a “dinosaur”.

If those weak spots cannot be urgently addressed, it could significantly affect the Government’s confidence in moving to alert level 3 when Cabinet considers the issue on Monday.

 The ministry received a report on the shortcomings in its contact tracing on April 11 but has yet to release it, the Herald reported.

The report, by University of Otago infectious diseases physician Ayesha Verrall,

 … was understood to be damning of the ministry’s tracing approach at the time of the audit.

The delay in publicly releasing it indicates the ministry is still scrambling to improve its tracing capabilities before Monday’s Cabinet meeting.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Wednesday he had received Verrall’s report and officials were “furiously” responding to its recommendations.

He said it would be given to ministers in the next 24 hours and then made public.

However, the Ministry of Health said last night that there was no update on when it would be released.

ACT’s David Seymour is right to demand it be released now.

He has issued  a press statement to insist:

“The Government must release a damning report on the Ministry of Health’s ability to do contact tracing…” 

 He says Otago University infectious diseases physician Ayesha Verrall recently audited the Ministry of Health’s contact tracing capabilities.

The ministry received the report a week ago and Ministers were to receive it on Thursday.

 “When to lift the lockdown will one of the most consequential decisions any government has made in our recent history. The Government’s capacity to do contact tracing will be a critical factor in Cabinet’s decision-making.

 “If the Government is not open about shortcomings in its COVID-19 response, how can it enlist private sector help? How do workers and businesses plan their lives if they are being kept in the dark?

 “The public interest in seeing this information outweighs any reason the Government might have for withholding it.

In his statement, Seymour claims the Prime Minister’s rationale for hiding the report “is nakedly political”.

He references remarks by the PM quoted in the New Zealand Herald report cited above:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday there was discussion among officials about whether the report should be released before the Government responded to its recommendations.

“But then immediately the question becomes ‘What have we done?’. So we’re putting [them] both out at the same time.

“I imagine fairly soon after the ministers having received it we will put it into the public domain.”

Seymour tartly comments:

“Jacinda Ardern appears to be concerned that if she releases Dr Verrall’s report, the public will have questions for the Government.

“This Government billed itself as the most open and transparent government in New Zealand’s history.

 “But it has refused to release Crown Law advice on the legal basis for the lockdown and Police’s significant new powers. Nor has the public seen any of the advice Cabinet relied on for its major decisions over the past month.

“The country is currently being run by a tiny group of Ministers and civil servants. The decisions being taken by them are quite literally life and death.

“The public deserves to be part of the conversation. The Government must start treating New Zealand adults and begin releasing critical information and advice on its COVID-19 response, including its capacity to do contact tracing.”

Seymour doubtless was hoping he would win a few brownie points among voters by demanding publication of the report, which means he – too – is bringing political considerations into the frame.

National’s health spokesman, Michael Woodhouse, has been politicking too.

He says the Government’s announcement of a ‘major investment’ for personal protective equipment is another example of it being too slow to act,

In the announcement, Health Minister David Clark brayed about the government stepping up its support in the response to Covid-19.

But the $200 million Clark mentioned [Woodhouse contends] was not new money or new investment – it was clearly set aside for PPE in the 17 March $12 billion package.

“The Government has chosen not to spend it yet, despite many frontline health workers crying out for more PPE.

“If the Government had spent this investment when it was first announced, then the majority of the PPE needed could have been in New Zealand already by now and be in use.

 “Instead, the Government has waited until 128 healthcare workers have tested positive for Covid-19 before finally fronting up with the equipment needed. The Government has also said this PPE is going to arrive over the next eight weeks which will be of little comfort to those who need it now.”

Woodhouse noted that the initial peak of cases had passed, but he maintained the government should expect significant demand for PPE for several months yet and plan accordingly, “rather than be constantly playing catch up.”


Part 2: The economics and politics of coronavirus are hard to discern but may surprise

So to be clear, at this stage not much is clear.  But it’s surely possible to draw out a few facts and try to isolate what might emerge as significant.

Point one: We can be reasonably sure that there will be a large fall in measured economic output.

This will capture the changes in our collective economic behaviour, both voluntary changes in response to events, and those mandated by governments. Think restaurant meals uneaten, movies not watched, flights not taken, bungees not jumped, houses not painted, and so forth. Some things postponed, some gone for ever. Continue reading “Part 2: The economics and politics of coronavirus are hard to discern but may surprise”

Part 1: It really did feel like the last plane to London

Auckland airport on Sunday evening airport bathed in bright sunshine. Passengers only in a near-deserted terminal, the formalities brief and at arms length, boarding quick.

The protocols were reassuring. A temperature check and face masks where possible. One nervous passenger per row.

It filled up in Brisbane with repatriating Taiwanese. Surgical scrubs and face masks suggested that some were more prepared than others; an unwillingness to use touchscreens or accept refreshment indicated highly focused concerns. Continue reading “Part 1: It really did feel like the last plane to London”

Failure to lift the wellbeing of our public health service helps explain slippage in Labour’s poll support

Diabetes amputations  top 1000” :  so ran a headline in  the  NZ  Herald over a  report  on  what   is becoming  one of the  public health disasters  in this   country.

Public health  is the  science  and art of preventing  disease, prolonging  life and promoting health  through organised  efforts of  society, says Professor Sir David  Skegg, one of  NZ’s most respected  epidemiologists.

Unfortunately NZ’s performance  in this is even less adequate  than its treatment services”.

He cites   weak leadership and a  lack of  political  will as fundamental problems  for public health in  NZ. Continue reading “Failure to lift the wellbeing of our public health service helps explain slippage in Labour’s poll support”