The week in politics: another week, another crisis


Analysis – A health ‘crisis’ is the latest in the government’s cascading problems as National continues to claim it can’t deliver anything of significance, Gib’s board shortage is elevated to ministerial task force level and the new Minister of Police gets to work.

Clockwise from top left: A task force has been set up to investigate the board shortage of Gib, new police minister Chris Hipkins, parties opposition say the health care system is in “crisis” and National Party leader Christopher Luxon.
Photo: RNZ/ 123RF

Opposition parties call it “the health crisis”. The government prefers “system under pressure”.

The issues besetting him were at the center of the political scene this week, as one report after another suggested the opposition had gotten it right.

A report from 1News last Thursday kicked it off. A woman with a severe headache went to the emergency department at Middlemore Hospital but left due to long wait times. Returning several hours later, she was diagnosed with a cerebral hemorrhage and died in intensive care.

An investigation is underway.

Labor MP Andrew Little

Health Minister Andrew Little refrained from talking about a health crisis.
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

This week, Manukau Counties DHB was reported to be paying $350 per patient for doctors’ offices to provide free appointments to help ease pressure on the Middlemore emergency department.

Capital and Coast and Hutt Valley DHBs have delayed planned care by four weeks, in addition to a two-week postponement, as they grapple with unprecedented staffing shortages and demand for health-related illnesses. Winter.

Wellington-area hospitals were handing out vouchers for free after-hours GP appointments for patients.

Middlemore Hospital last week closed its emergency department for three hours and diverted patients arriving by ambulance to North Shore Hospital.

Dr Peter Boot, medical director of NorthCare Accident and Medical, told the New Zealand Herald he woke up at 4am worried about his patients after working grueling 12-hour shifts.

“I’m exhausted and I’ve already cried… the whole health system is falling apart,” he said.

On Monday, Boot saw 62 patients, many of them from emergency rooms where wait times were unbearable.

To perform “safe and appropriate medicine”, a GP would need to see around 20 patients a day, he said.

The Herald published figures, obtained as part of the OIA, which showed Middlemore Hospital’s emergency department handled just 68 per cent of patients within six hours last month, leaving 32 per cent (26791) wait longer than the target time.

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Health Minister Andrew Little disputed the data, saying emergency room wait times fluctuated and it was impossible to establish a trend from a month later, according to the report.

Asked about the overall situation, Little acknowledged that the system was under pressure, RNZ reported.

“We have a staff shortage, we also have a flu season at a level we haven’t seen in two years and we have staff absenteeism at a level we’ve never seen before,” he said. he declared.

Despite repeated interrogations, he refrained from talking about the crisis.

National health spokesman Shane Reti had no doubts about it.

“He’s dreaming. Show me an ED, show me a DHB, that’s not in crisis,” he said. “Pick one, any one, and convince us that the healthcare system is okay. It’s wrong.”

Reti said the system is slowly breaking, in all areas.

Shane Reti

The national health spokesperson says the health system is broken.
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

National chief Christopher Luxon weighed in on Morning Report: “We’re short 4,000 nurses right now and again a lot of the problems can be solved by actually opening up our immigration settings, making New Zealand attractive by compared to Australia, Canada and other places,” he said.

Luxon said his party had the answers and three things needed to be done – bring in a skilled workforce and fast track the path to giving residency to midwives and nurses; invest in frontline services and staff rather than bureaucracy; and introduced health targets that the government removed.

He expanded his review to include everything. “There’s nothing this government can do. No matter which portfolio you choose, they’re actually spending more money, hiring more bureaucrats, and getting worse results.”

Luxon cited health waiting lists: “We’ve gone from 1,000 people waiting over four months to see a first specialist (a first appointment with a specialist) before Covid to almost 15,000 and now after Covid , we are at 37,000.”

ACT chief David Seymour said Little had “become a spectator in his own wallet” and more needed to be done to get health workers back to work.

Meanwhile, the government faced criticism for allowing the shortage of Gib panels to reach crisis proportions. The mark is produced here by Fletcher Building and appears to be used almost exclusively.

There have been reports of stalled property developments and desperate attempts to import other brands of plasterboard. RNZ previously reported that the shortage had put a stranglehold on the construction sector.

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The building and construction portfolio was taken from Poto Williams last week and given to Megan Woods, one of the government’s most influential ministers.

She announced that she had set up a ministerial task force to solve the problem. It includes key experts in construction, construction permitting and supply chain. Appointments have been made.

It will examine whether regulation of alternative products is needed, ways to streamline the use of untested products in the market, new distribution models, advice on consent approaches and supply chain issues.

Luxon said forming another task force would not do the job. He wanted a bill to be passed urgently allowing imports to meet Australasian standards and actively seeking them.

Seymour said equivalent marks were used in Australia and the United States.

“It’s not technologically sophisticated, it’s just a sandwich of cardboard and plaster of Paris,” he said.

“The government has rushed through every type of legislation possible as a matter of urgency and when it comes to a serious issue that holds the entire construction industry in a stalemate, threatens industry players with bankruptcy, all of a sudden – crickets, they’re going to set up a task force,” he said.

National’s Andrew Bayly questioned Woods in Parliament, wanting to know when something would actually happen.

The minister said the task force was not a formal investigation, it was a group of private sector experts who would advise her to ensure the “effective and rapid” implementation of the measures.

“I expect the issues raised at the first meeting next Monday to be addressed immediately,” she said.

Megan Woods

Megan Woods has set up a ministerial task force to deal with the Gib shortage.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

New Police Minister Chris Hipkins got to work this week and admitted Checkpoint that crime statistics would be a partial measure of whether he was making a difference in the job.

He said gang crime was clearly one of the areas where there had been “an escalation” and was a priority issue for him.

He is said to be looking to see if there are any other “legislative tools” that would help the police, apart from gun protection legislation which is pending in parliament.

Banning gang patches, which National is proposing, was not on its agenda, Hipkins said. There was evidence that this did not reduce gang activity, but simply made it less visible.

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National Police spokesman Mark Mitchell, who harassed Poto Williams for months until the portfolio was taken from him, had his first crack at Hipkins during Question Time on Wednesday.

He found no easy target. When asked why the government hadn’t “done something” instead of allowing gang membership to increase by 40%, Hipkins fired it at National.

“When we make policing commitments, we keep them,” he said. “I note that something like the gun protection orders, for example, were promised in 2014 and not delivered. They were then promised again in 2016 and not delivered. Our government will actually deliver them.”

Mitchell opted for the accusation which tends to anger ministers.

“Why, under this tough-on-crime Labor government, with record investment and record police numbers, are our streets more dangerous, with 23 drive-by shootings in Auckland terrorizing local communities?” He asked.

It is the sweetness of crime that catches them.

Hipkins said he would tell the House what a soft stance on crime was. “It says if gang activity is taking place, as long as we can’t see it, that’s fine. It’s the most lenient stance on crime I’ve seen in a long time and it comes of that member.”

Stuff political editor Luke Malpass said on the shortest day of the year and as a cold spell hit the country, it was no surprise the government appeared to be having a case of the winter blues.

“While Covid-19 may have slipped back from the front pages, what we are seeing now are the consequences of the government’s Covid-19 policies in 2020 and 2021,” he said.

“Politically, it gets tougher from here. The victories of the Covid-19 leadership are now far behind the government.

“But the challenges postponed as a result of the Covid response are here now. And that’s regardless of resurgent opposition.

“Winter is here for the government.”

There was a happy occasion amidst the darkness. The Parliament grounds have been reopened, restored to their original state after being destroyed by the protest.

*Peter Wilson is a life member of the Parliament’s Press Gallery, 22 years as NZPA Political Editor and seven years as NZ Newswire’s Parliamentary Bureau Chief.



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