Red Alert

Health By Numbers

Posted by on December 19th, 2012

Both Vernon Small and Corin Dann anointed Tony Ryall their politician of the year. Both cited the same reason: When was the last time you heard of a health scandal?

I agree that Tony Ryall is the best politician on National’s front bench. But that doesn’t make him a good Health Minister. By forcing hospitals to focus on delivering short term statistics he can crow about in Parliament and micro-managing any emerging issue that will resonate with National’s base he has managed the politics of the health portfolio sublimely.

But by sucking resources out of public and primary health and refusing to do anything to prevent the looming obesity crisis or the fact that poverty is a primary driver of ill health, Tony Ryall is setting future health ministers up for massive problems. They will have to grapple with a health system that simply will not be able to cope with the demand that will be placed upon it. Very difficult choices will have to be made about how much we spend on health, how the revenue is raised and what the public health system can deliver. If we leave that all too late, drastic steps will need to be taken and the public health system as we know it will cease to exist.

Just like superannuation, National has their head in the sand on health. They are more worried about getting the numbers right for today’s political purposes rather than doing what is right for the future.

Tony Ryall has build a magnificent house of cards. It looks splendid right now, but the signs it could collapse at any time are there:

Maryan Street has already called Ryall out on his dodgy elective surgery numbers. Simple procedures get priority over more complex surgeries regardless of the outcome they achieve for the sole purpose of getting the numbers up.

At the Health Select Committee fincncial review of the Ministry of Health I pointed out that despite both Labour and National getting elective surgery waiting times down to now being on par with the USA and National diverting resources into getting more and more surgeries done, New Zealand ranks amongst the worst developed countries for post-operative complications such as infections and surgical items being left in the patient. So it’s all about quantity, not quality. Of course, those post-op complications are costly and soak up resources that could be used on better things.

Today there is an emerging story that the national screening programme which identifies hearing irregularities in newborns has been botched resulting in up to two-thousand babies being recalled to hospital to have their hearing re-checked. Why? Because some of the screeners only tested one ear and, bizarrely, some tested themselves rather than the baby. As Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew had to concede on Radio NZ this morning the only logical explanation for this was to save time, get more tests done and produce the numbers the Government is looking for.

Good on the Government for dumping this story after Parliament has risen so this little health scandal can be squashed before the next question time and good on Ryall for sending Goodhew to face the music. Perhaps it was to make up for his sexist graphic about doctors and nurses (which again contained dodgy numbers).

Tony Ryall the best politician of 2012? Yes. But he’s a crap Health Minister and we will all be paying for it in the future.

9 Responses to “Health By Numbers”

  1. Dorothy says:

    Neil Miller had him as MP of the year on the RadioNZ afternoon panel too – word must have gone out to all the Nat Party shills!

  2. Dave says:

    Gee Dorothy did it ever occur to you that your paranoia about the media was misplaced and Tony Ryall is in fact an effective minister delivering on his promises? No? Ok then. Credit where its due.

  3. Dorothy says:

    Dave, did it ever occur to you that noticing that all the rightwing commentators are picking the same MP is not paranoia?
    Or maybe you’re qualified to psychoanalyse people you’ve never met?
    Hmmm, thought not!

  4. SPC says:

    Quite apt, micro-managing the intensity/hospital treatment ambulance at the bottom of the cliff is not the same thing as improving the health/well-being of New Zealanders.

    There is a diversion of funds for home care and from public health investment. Given both the aging and the preventable conditions are increasing, this will result in simply running on the spot at a faster and faster speed. The 1990’s all over again.

    And there is already a level of stress on health care workers that undoubtedly contributes to operational mistakes and thus increased post op care. What is the best practice model for dealing with that – investment in increasing capacity and investing in prevention. National front-loading all the savings and leaving the cost to a later government.

  5. well, well, well says:

    Dorothy – my choice would be Judith Collins who has taken largely taken ACC out of the headlines and is now sorting out The Bain compensation fiasco initiated by Simon Power.

    Runner Up would be Russel Norman who has singlehandedly made the Greens appear a viable option and probably a better long term prospect than Labour.

  6. tamati says:

    Immunisation rates have masively increased under Ryall.

    Ask any practice nurse, G.P. or preventative medicine professor what is the most effective method of disease prevention? …

  7. bbfloyd says:

    @tamiti… Can you tell me when the drive to get children immunised that has led to these kinds of numbers being treated was actually set in train?

    I have a very strong feeling you are giving ryall credit for the initiative of the last aadministration…..

    What a surprise!! tories claiming credit for the achievements of the labour party….Gee, that hasn’t happened much before…..

    Face it tories… ryall is just another fiddler… deeply mediocre, and duplicious to a dangerous degree when it comes to the long term imbalances his self serving manipulations are embedding into the system…..

    The only talent our excuse for a fourth estate seems to consider meaningful is the ability to lie in ways that are advantagious to the liar….

    No surprisees then that ryall was the one picked, as he hasn’t been fully outed yet as the incompetent self promoter he is… no different from the rest of the raiding parties rather frighteningly poor excuse for a cabinet, but yet to be caught out badly enough for the fourth estate to have no choice but to publish the “bad news”….

    I have to ask…. just how far down towards a total breakdown in the fabric of society, and it’s mechanisms do we need to sink before it becomes obvious to any tory with an iq at room temerature that their agenda is going to wreck us, and kill the “new zealand dream”….

    I’m guessing that it won’t start hitting home ’till after the first skirmish that spills blood on their streets… Sad really… very, very sad, and the main reason people are being forced to commit their lives to other countries….At least those places have leadership that lives up to the name…

  8. Jack Ramaka says:

    I still find it amazing the number of administrators we have in the Health System it is a bit like Councils where we have a bureaucrat checking every decision a ratepayer wants to make about his own property, yet they can’t even get the basic right themselves ie Leaky Building Syndrome $18 Billion Problem.

    Health Prevention and Health Education would be a very good start.

    Having worked in the FCMG Trade you would be horrified by the number of trucks delivering rubbish food to the major supermarket chains, ie Snack Foods and Fizzy Drinks. This stuff is severely harming our society.

  9. NattyM says:

    If the media and critics were doing their job, they would see Ryall has appointed National Party cronies and hacks to pretty much every health position going. Some of them know about health, most don’t but the one thing they do know is that they have been appointed to do Ryall’s bidding. Ryall seems to spend his days either visiting parts of the health service and crowing over elective surgery numbers or phoning his various appointees to apply the necessary pressure to them. You have exactly right. Ryall is a good politician but he is NOT a good Minister of Health.