Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘Tony Ryall’

The right to know: Tony Ryall

Posted by on October 12th, 2013

As we get to the end of this part of the blog series on the right to know; it’s time to take a look at Hon Tony Ryall, Minister of Health and for State Owned Enterprises.

Tony Ryall responded to our request in a table, as opposed to the redacted spread sheet provided by many of his colleagues. This limits our ability to draw conclusions as we are reliant on the figures the Minister provides rather than raw data. In particular, he left some gaping holes in the table and left us unable to tell how many of his responses were returned late, although he does state that all requests have been responded to!

You’ll note the figures don’t add up, so we have to assume that he has included many of the transferred requests as being responded to within the 20 day time limit imposed by the Act. In the table provided, the Minister has broken the figures down by portfolio but has not entered a figure for responses sent within 20 working days for his State Owned Enterprises portfolio. Since he transferred 18 out of a total 27 responses and extended the time limit for another 7 we can tentatively deduce that he responded to two requests late, without seeking an extension and absolutely no requests were responded to within 20 working days!

Tony Ryall also fronts up to having suggested a charge for the supply of information to one requestor and has provided us with a bit of a breakdown of who those requestors were.


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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.

Why Ryall’s Health Targets Are Wrong

Posted by on February 3rd, 2012

Labour, along with many people working in healthcare, has been saying for a long time that National’s health targets are narrow and simplistic, short sighted and lack enough focus on the looming problems for the health sector.

Yesterday, the Health Ministry’s briefing to the incoming minsterwas published. The ministry identified the priorities it thinks the government should be focused on:

  • Preventing cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases which make up 80% of the disease burden of the total population.
  • Improving mental health outcomes.
  • Adressing the long term health conditions facing our ageing population including the increaseing incidence of dementia.

Compare that with National’s targets:

  • Faster transit through Emergency Departments
  • More elective surgery
  • Shorter waiting time for cancer treatment
  • More immunisations
  • Better help for smokers to quit
  • Better cardiovascular services

The two sets of prioities do cross over on getting smokers to quit and cardiovascular services although these are the weakest measures in the government’s set. National’s cancer target is for treatment, not prevention and beyond that, the ministry’s prioirites don’t get a look in.

No one is saying that the things the government identifies as priorities are not good, worthy things that we want to see happen in our health system. The problem is that when this narrow focus is combined with reduced funding in real terms, all the other things that the ministry says need to be addressed now before they get out of hand aren’t getting the attention they need.

Health Target Tinkering

Posted by on January 19th, 2012

Yesterday, Tony Ryall announced he is tinkering with his narrow and simplistic health targets. The changes in of themselves are positive but the targets are flawed. Even the Medical Association thinks so.

Association chairman Paul Ockelford said the health targets were commendable, but the emphasis on targets was flawed.

The targets needed to work alongside other approaches, such as housing and education, that influenced people’s health.

“If these are not addressed we will continue to have glaring health disparities in our communities and a high prevalence of preventable diseases that affect not only quality of life, but life expectancy,” Dr Ockelford said.

The targets were “narrow and simplistic”.

“They do not give a full picture of how our health system is performing because of the difficulty of linking these targets to information about patient and public health outcomes.”

The real challenges for our health system are the projected increasing cost of delivering healthcare and the increasing prevalence of preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease as well as depression and anxiety disorders.  

Tackling both of these requires that a much greater emphasis be placed on keeping people well and preventing the need for costly treatments. This is desperately lacking in National’ approach to health.

To me, two of the most glaring omissions from National’s priorities are mental health and chronic disease management. The lack of resources to respond to people with low acuity need in these areas means they end up with much bigger problems than necessary and the taxpayer foots a much bigger bill than we ought.

Tony Ryall will enthusiastically point to short term output data that my look impressive now, but what is his strategy doing to improve long term health outcomes for our nation?

There is more to health than a league table

Posted by on August 29th, 2011

The conventional wisdom is that Tony Ryall is making a good fist of the Health portfolio. Now that I am up close in the area I can say that he keeps a tight rein on matters health, and is managing the portfolio effectively. But there is a big difference between managing the politics of health and actually doing what is right for the long term health outcomes of New Zealanders.

The best evidence of that is the release today of the Child Health Monitor Report. It shows, among other things, that in the last two years there have been an additional 5 000 avoidable hospital admissions for things like respiratory illness and skin infections. The authors of the report note that the cost of going to the doctor, especially after hours is a factor in whether children are getting the healthcare they need, along with a range factors associated with child poverty.

I am not saying all of this is down to the Health policy of the current government. But the focus on the narrow range of health targets set by the Minister means that child health is not the priority it should be. The Minister has narrowed the health targets in such a way as to scratch the itches of waiting lists and time spent in ED, but it is at the expense of early intervention and public health programmes. District Health Boards have responded by pursuing the Minister’s targets, spending on public health has been slashed ($124 million in the last Budget) and funding for primary care has failed to keep up with inflation.

Just managing the Health portfolio is not enough. I actually think it is irresponsible to avoid the long term investments that will lead to long term health benefits in favour of things that are designed to fit on a coloured chart and make the Minister look good.

Labour, through Annette King, has already outlined our Agenda for Children that will put children’s well being at the centre of our social policy. More details will be announced in the election, but from a health policy point of view public health and affordable and accessible primary care must be a priority.

Rangiora- A Community Standing Up

Posted by on August 24th, 2011

On Monday I was in Rangiora for a public meeting organised by local MP Clayton Cosgrove, calling for the reinstatement of the after hours GP services that were cut last year. It was a great turnout, 250 to 300 people. They are understandably angry. This was a service they have had for more than 20 years. The population is growing, and it is also ageing. The 40 minute ride to the nearest after-hours in Christchurch is expensive if the one ambulance is not available and you can’t drive yourself. On Monday we heard the story of young mother who had to take her toddler who had burns to Christchurch. The total cost of taxi and being seen came to $300. By the end of the week she did not have enough money for food for the week and had to rely on the support of other agencies.

I have great admiration for the people who are behind this campaign. With Clayton’s support, a local woman named Paula Thackwell set about getting signatures for a petition to get the services back. She managed to get 8,246 signatures. That amounts to about 70% of the population of Rangiora, a truly phenomenal effort. The submission found its way to the Health Select Committee, which eventually reported on it in July.

I was on that committee, and I can tell you that the attitude of the government members was that there was no issue here. We got a report from the Canterbury District Health Board, and they said there was no issue. The majority of the select committee rejected the petition. Labour put in a minority report backing the petitioners. We asked questions in Parliament, Tony Ryall said it was not his problem either.

At that point Paula could have given up, the government was not listening. But she did not. Along with Clayton, she kept the pressure up. Eventually the government reacted, and the District Health Board have proposed a “solution”. It involves a six month trial of paramedic and nurse triage phone service. That is a step forward, and a complete change of heart from the DHB. But the community is not satisfied. The view at the meeting yesterday was that there needs to be a solution that still gives the people of the Rangiora area the confidence that there is a doctor available in their community when they need one. The meeting passed a motion to keep up the fight for the reinstatement of the services.

There is of course a bigger question here, which I have put to Tony Ryall which is what responsibility does he take for people across New Zealand having access to after hours services. Last week they were cut in Temuka and Geraldine. There are stories from elsewhere as well. The government needs to be up front with New Zealanders as to whether they will ensure that the services are there. But in the meantime, hats off to the prople of Rangiora for keeping up the fight. We are right there with them.

My day with Tony

Posted by on June 22nd, 2011

This morning the Health Select Committee held its annual estimates hearing. This is the opportunity for MPs to quiz the Minister and officials on the Budget and plans for the coming year(s). Gerry Brownlee was next door talking Canterbury issues, and so the media (ex NZPA) were not present to cover what happened.

I wish they had been. It is clearly a planned strategy this year for Minister’s to do ‘show and tell presentations’ as part of their appearances, to give a nice soft story and also to waste a bit of time. I was present for Judith Collins doing this with Police, and today Tony showed off some drugs and the new throat swabs.

Having got past that, my first question to Mr Ryall was to get him to be more specific about some of the health cuts in the Budget. The Ministry had provided a table (which will become public when the estimates are reported back) of the cuts, and it included an item “Public Health- Reprioritisations”. This is $60 million over four years, no small amount. After repeated attempts to find out what was actually been cut, it became clear the Minister had no idea. He started reading some names of programmes off a sheet, but he did not have a clue.

Even if you think its great that $60 million was cut from public health (which I don’t) you would at least expect that the Minister would know what it was he was cutting. The same thing applied when Iain Lees-Galloway asked him about mental health. No idea.

I then tried to see if he felt any need to intervene in another example of a community who’s after hours service is in danger, this time in Temuka and Geraldine. Again, he was not interested in answering on a specific issue.

As readers might have gathered by the time I got to the House for question I was pretty frustrated. I wont bore you with the details- but here is the link. The bottom line is that the Minister continues to pretend he is putting more real spending power into health, but the agencies who are actually delivering the services, such as the mental health and addicition services in the Northern Region, are getting nothing to help with increased cost pressures, and that can mean only one thing. A reduction in services. And that is the one thing Tony Ryall told us would not happen.

Why would the Minister of Health not want a debate?

Posted by on May 13th, 2011

Not too long after I became Health Spokesperson the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (the senior doctors union) invited me to participate in a debate with Health Minister Tony Ryall at their annual conference. They were getting in early as the conference is not til November, but they rightly reasoned that if they locked us in now they would ensure we were there in the election campaign.

I was a bit disappointed then, when I got the message this week that the debate was off. I will let ASMS tell the rest of the story

At its February meeting, recognising that it is election year and that the Conference will be held in the penultimate week of the election campaign, the Executive resolved to invite the Minister of Health Tony Ryall and recently appointed new Opposition (Labour) health spokesperson Grant Robertson MP to participate in a debate on the ‘future direction of the health system and the role of senior doctors in it.’ However, while Mr Robertson accepted the invitation, Mr Ryall did not, instead stating his availability to speak in a separate stand-alone session at Conference but not participate in the proposed debate.

Now, I know can be a little bit scarey, but I would have taken it easy, honestly.

So, Tony, here it is for the record, your chance to re-consider, and let’s have a debate. After all that is what elections are all about.

More twaddle from Tony

Posted by on March 30th, 2011

Today saw the latest release of Tony Ryall’s statistics on the number of people employed in the public sector. Let’s recap on how these figures come about;

  • National says they will cap, but not cut the public service. (see John Key’s speech to PSA Congress 2008)
  • In order to “measure” this National creates something called “core government administration” and says that resources will go from there to the “frontline”.
  • Tony Ryall admits in Parliament that he has no definition of what “frontline” services are, and later that there are jobs in “core government administration” that might be considered frontline, and may have been cut. (think DOC rangers, Fisheries and Biosecurity officers)
  • After two years more than 1800 positions are gone, with the promise of more, and morale in the public service and public confidence in services sink further.

National Party supporters crow that this is just what is needed to reduce wasteful bureaucracy, and celebrate thousands of New Zealanders losing their jobs. Remember this is a government that supposedly has a “relentless” focus on jobs and keeping people in work. And as Bill English has told us this is just the beginning. These jobs don’t exist in a vacuum, they are linked to services we all need and use.

There is no doubt the Christchurch Earthquake showed the value of those who are “at the frontline” like the rescue workers crawling through rubble, and those who back them up, like the staff at the Ministry of Health who coordinated the moves of disabled Christchurch people and set up the emergency response network with DHBs. They are both important, and we need strong public services for all New Zealanders.

As with Tony Ryall in health this is all just slogans and manufactured targets. There is nothing here about the quality of public services New Zealanders are receiving, how they will be more responsive, innovative and linked to their communities. Just scratching a political itch. To make matters worse, he claims credit for more teachers and doctors, which a) may not actually exist and b) if they do began their training under Labour.

Lets have more efficient public services, by all means, but New Zealanders deserve better than Tony’s twaddle.

The cost of after hours care

Posted by on March 7th, 2011

Campbell Live did a piece tonight on the cost of after hours medical care. Worth a watch.

The amount of money being charged right around the country that they are reporting is huge, including well over $100 in some places, and even $66 for a fourteen year old in Auckland.

When I raised in Parliament earlier this year the case of Linley Williams who had paid $41 for her 20 month old to get after hours care I was told by Tony Ryall that this was a particular problem on the Kapiti Coast. It seems it is a particular problem in a large number of areas!

Since I raised that case I have had a number of letters from people who have been charged astronomical sums for after-hours care. As Linley Williams and one of the people quoted in the story said the only option for many people is heading an Emergency Department, which clogs them up even further.

These kinds of costs on top of the rest of the cost of living increases with petrol, power and food is really putting the pressure on families.

Cancer Treatment Cut

Posted by on January 4th, 2011

Mid-Central DHB is cutting chemotherapy treatment for certain types of cancer.

It’s clear that one of the over-riding reasons behind the decision to refuse some cancer patients treatment and the failure to even place them on the waiting list is to ensure that Tony Ryall can manipulate cancer waiting times to present to the media.

Cutting cancer waiting times is one of Tony Ryall’s narrow-focused targets for the health system. A laudable aim at first glance, but did anyone really expect that this would be the method used to achieve it?

National criticised Labour for sending patients needing cancer treatment to Australia when there was a shortage of specialists. We know now that instead of sending patients to Australia when there is a shortage, National’s answer is they just won’t treat patients who have some cancers.

Ryall has been virtually silent since this issue came to light. Guess there’s no photo-op in it for him.

Neurosurgery win a victory for Southerners

Posted by on November 10th, 2010

Otago and Southland communities will keep three neurosurgeons in Dunedin. The decision was announced this morning. It’s a huge victory for those communities by refusing  to accept a downgrade of their health services. 

Labour is proud that the people of Otago and Southland stood up for themselves and in particular Pete Hodgson and myself are hugely relieved that our communities won’t be disavantaged by having neurosurgery services ripped away.

It is a total disgrace that Health Minister Tony Ryall didn’t have the foresight and leadership to see how important resident neurosurgeons were to Otago and Southland. Instead he put our communities through months of stress and anguish which could have been avoided.

Labour’s Health spokesperson Ruth Dyson put it well when she said today:

Southerners in their tens of thousands turned out, refusing to accept the National Government’s decision to allow neurosurgical services to be closed in Dunedin. Today’s announcement is a direct result of their protests, petitions and the pressure they placed on the Government.

Since National came into office there have been more than 100 cuts to frontline health services in New Zealand and neurosurgery would almost certainly have joined that list if it had not been for the actions of the southern people and media.

 Health Minister Tony Ryall had taken the coward’s way out by refusing to intervene in the issue. Thankfully the people of the Southern regions displayed a lot more backbone than the Minister.

Inquiries into leaked information

Posted by on September 23rd, 2010

On the 18th of March the government announced that it would be launching an inquiry into the leaking of information about the government’s plans to mine National Parks, and their merger of National Library and Archives NZ into the Department of Internal Affairs.

I took the opportunity of the six month anniversary of the launch of the inquiry to ask a written question as to whether the inquiries had been completed. The response from Tony Ryall was

No. The State Services Commissioner advises me that the investigation has taken longer to complete than he initially expected. However, I am advised that the investigation is in the final stages of preparation.

Not sure why it has taken longer than expected, but six months seems like an awfully long time. We await with interest.

Tony’s new man says fewer doctors and nurses ok

Posted by on September 14th, 2010

After reportedly failing to convince 19 people who were shoulder tapped for the job,  there is now a new Director-General of Health.  He is the former head of the Scottish health service, Dr Kevin Woods.

I dont know much about Dr Woods yet, but first impressions are not great.  According to the Dom Post he oversaw the axing of 1500 nursing positions during his tenure in Scotland. The article goes on to say

At the time, he was asked by a Government committee whether it was possible to still provide quality health services with “significantly fewer” doctors and nurses. “Yes, we believe we can,” Dr Woods said.

Oh dear. A transfer of Dr Woods idea to New Zealand would have disastrous consequences. The notion that our already very busy (and capable I might add) medical professionals could cope with staff reductions is horrific.

The word in Wellington is that the previous CE, Stephen McKernan left because he  could not work with Tony Ryall and Murray Horn at the National Health Board as they shut him out while pursuing their agenda of cuts. It seems possible that they may have now found a willing accomplice.

Where to in Health?

Posted by on August 8th, 2010

In Wellington we woke to the news on Friday that Ken Whelan, the Chief Executive of the Capital and Coast District Health Board had resigned. In his farewell email to staff Whelan said

there was no more room to cut the district health board’s costs, despite Government pressure to do so. “I cannot see where any more major efficiency can come from without negatively impacting on services.”

Even Sir John Anderson, the government’s appointment to Chair the Board has said that any further savings “would cut into muscle”.

I have had a bit to do with Ken over the last 18 months or so that I have been an MP, and I regard him very highly. He listened, he was honest, and had a very good grasp on what was happening within the DHB. When he sounds the warning he has made on his departure, the government should listen. The two areas where I have the biggest concerns in Wellington are mental health and public health where cuts are starting to have an impact. In Mental Health this will get worse with the closing of the two community clinics in the city and Kilbirnie set to cause significant disruption to service, despite the best efforts of the staff involved.

When we combine what is happening in Wellington, the public uprising over neurosurgery in Dunedin, the at least 80 cuts to frontline services elsewhere across the country, as highlighted by my colleague Ruth Dyson, and the fact we still do not have a Director-General of Health in place, questions have got to be asked about where Tony Ryall is taking Health. It is never going to be easy. Maintaining and developing health services with an ageing population, increased costs and understandable public desire for locally accessible services is a tough ask. But it needs leadership and it needs to get beyond glib answers in Parliament.

A place to start? Of Capital and Coast’s $47 million deficit, $37 million of it relates to the building of the regional hospital. A senior health professional I spoke to on Friday noted that other DHBs with financial issues are also in this state because of costs related to the buildings. A chunk of this is due to the capital charging regime. I think we need to re-look at the capital charging regime. Of course we want DHBs and other government entities to be efficient in their use of buildings and capital, but if it starts to mean cuts into core medical services, we have to question if the priorities are right?

Dunedin people power sends message to Nat govt

Posted by on August 6th, 2010


Neurosurgery Rally 002

Neurosurgery Rally 004

An estimated 10,000 Dunedin citizens took to the streets today to send Tony Ryall and his government a message that taking neurosurgical services out of Dunedin is not going to happen.

The biggest protest for many years in Dunedin saw the editors of the Otago Daily Times, the Southland Times and the Mayors of Dunedin, Gore and Southland (whoops) Invercargill and Labour MPs accompanied by mums with small children, school children in uniform, shop keepers and their staff, factory workers, patients from the hospital, nurses, doctors and other health workers, students and staff  from the University and Polytech, retired people and many many others walk together in unity to surround Dunedin Hospital in a silent show of protest.

The proposal is to move all neurosurgical services to Christchurch and require people with head injuries and neurological conditions to travel to Christchurch for treatment.

Labour MPs have said this week that if that happens people will die. Families would suffer, Our hospital and our medical school would be put at risk.

Tony Ryall knows he can make the decision,. He doesn’t need to wait for an expert panel to go through the motions and make the recommendation in November. He needs to decide now. National MPs from Otago and Southland have supported retaining two neurosurgeons in our region. It’s a no-brainer to coin a phrase.

Why does no one want to be the Director General of Health?

Posted by on July 17th, 2010

The Dom Post reports this morning

It’s the $550,000 job nobody wants. Nearly five months after he announced his resignation, and two weeks out from his departure, no replacement has been found for Health Ministry head Stephen McKernan.

Applications were originally due to close on 6 April this year, but now further ads have been posted. The article reports speculation that I have also heard that a number of people have been shoulder tapped but have declined the offer. There is speculation that the governments cuts to the Health budget and the public sector in general are putting off candidates, and I am sure there is an element of truth to that. But for me there are two words that explain the lack of applicants. Murray Horn.

To recap Horn, the former Treasury Secretary, was Tony Ryall’s handpicked Purchase Advisor, who went on to chair the review the health system which recommended the creation of a National Health Board, which Horn was then appointed to Chair. Someone say jobs for the boys?

While McKernan was too professional to say anything when he quit, the word emerging from the health sector is that Horn and the National Health Board are seen as having the direct line to the Minister, and the Director-General and the rest of the Ministry in general is being sidelined. There are stories of confused accountabilities with Horn and the Board controlling policy advice far more than expected.

Its not hard to see why no one would want to enter that environment. Morale is incredibly low in the Ministry, with hundreds of jobs already cut, and more to go over the next year. Tony Ryall is playing politics by myopically focusing on elective surgery figures,while funding is being slashed from vital public health programmes. It is the classic poisoned chalice.

This should be a critical role that ensures the government is getting quality advice about the short and long term future of our health system, but Tony Ryall’s jobs for the boys approach is the reason why no one wants it. And that is bad for the health of all New Zealanders.

Ryall won’t answer the obvious question

Posted by on June 16th, 2010

Tony Ryall appeared before the health select committee this morning to answer questions on the health budget.

I put it to him that the fact that DHBs are cutting frontline services tells us that the small increase in the health budget is not enough to cover the cost of maintaining current services.

So I asked him if he thought that reducing the supply of health services would reduce the demand. (ie if you take the service away, will the community suddenly no longer require it?).

He completely avoided the question instead choosing to talk about his pet projects. When I attempted to get him back on track, the chairman, Paul Hutchinson, shut me down.

Put simply, health services for those who need them are not a priority to this Government.  National’s priority is tax cuts for those who don’t need them. No wonder the Minister is so evasive.

Rich Patient, Poor Patient

Posted by on January 22nd, 2010

Health Minister Tony Ryall says a proposal to introduce a two-tier system allowing private medical care in public hospitals is “worth a look.”

He should rule this insanity out right now. The idea that our hospitals have the capacity to deliver private health care on top of their current workload is so far removed from reality it’s staggering that Ryall would even countenance the idea.

Just this morning in my own electorate, Mid-Central DHB informed staff that it would be closing surgical beds due to a drop in acute surgery needs. I understand that when asked why the beds couldn’t be used to boost elective surgery numbers, management replied that surgeons were unavailable due to their private sector commitments.

If there isn’t the capacity to meet current needs, where will it come from to meet the additional requirements of fee-paying patients?

That aside, the point of having public hospitals is that everyone gets access to medical care based on need, not wealth. The kind of queue-jumping this would encourage is totally unacceptable.

Just where is Tony Ryall taking our health system?

Nats: Poor people should just die

Posted by on August 17th, 2009

I find the idea that we should prioritise healthcare to those who are in the workforce totally disgusting. Mothers, grandparents, children and others who are not in the workforce will rightly be worried that these ideas are even under discussion by the National/ACT/Maori Party government. Even more so because Tony Ryall doesn’t seem to have ruled them out.

I was disappointed that Ryall wasn’t challenged on this aspect of his health reforms when he appeared on TVNZ’s Q+A over the weekend. But he shouldn’t have waited for the question that never came. He should have made it clear that quality public healthcare will continue to be available for all New Zealanders. Failure to do so suggests a chronic lack of leadership and a questionable set of values on the part of our current administration.

I firmly believe that the highest possible standard of healthcare should be available to all New Zealanders, whatever their position in our society. The utilitarian notion that we should only provide healthcare to those who contribute to economic activity is appalling. It would save a lot of money if we left the old and the sick to die, but we’d be a morally bankrupt society if we did so.