Sunday, February 26, 2023

Kate Hawkesby: In a first-world country we should be able to expect a decent health service, not 'adequate'

As my son marched off for a lung X-ray for a chest infection yesterday, I wondered just how dire the health system was going to get this winter. 

As the weather starts to cool, many are picking up change-of-season coughs and colds and when I look at what happened in post-Covid winters overseas, I worry about how bad it might get here too. 

Health NZ says it’s ‘bracing’ for a tough winter. But it’s not just sickness that may come our way which is worrying, but our ability to cope with it. There is the state of our hospitals, the workforce of frontline health workers, the shortage of nurses, the overworked doctors and the lack of GP’s in many regions.

It was reported that Health NZ’s Chair Rob Campbell was warning that ‘the reformed health system was still grappling with ‘systemic problems’ that would affect the level of service it could give in the colder months.’

Systemic problems. Why are they not being identified immediately and the troubleshooting to fix it underway? 

Remember the waiting time debacle last year? Hours upon hours of people going unseen, some leaving without ever getting attended to, in very publicised cases a couple of deaths due to being overlooked in chaotic and crowded EDs.

It was just October that headlines read “Emergency wait times worst on record..”, “Long wait times in ED’s lead to deaths..”, “Middlemore abnormally busy..”, “Damning Middlemore report..”,  “Waikato Hospital wait times worst in 5 years..”, ”Crazy wait times continue..”.

So does that give us much hope for this coming winter? Because what’s changed? Just because something is not on the news anymore doesn’t mean it is not still happening in places. 

Health NZ [was quoted] saying, "We will be operating in a position where some of our physical resources in emergency departments are not adequate to the demand and our staffing levels are not adequate. 

"We can't promise to fix those in the short term but for this winter we're making the emergency provisions that we think are going to be adequate."

So even four months after the headlines of worst-ever waiting times, they say they still can’t promise a fix.

It is reported there are eight emergency department 'hotspots' in Whangārei, Auckland, Middlemore, Tauranga, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, and Invercargill hospitals. 

Well, they’re all major hospitals in major communities, so let’s hope extra resourcing is poured into those areas for a start. Opposition Health spokesperson Dr. Shane Reti told journalists ‘the system was already in crisis.. with a “tired and strained” workforce, and he was worried this year's winter burden could come at a cost.’

But we're already paying the price for neglected health care.

New Zealand recorded an increase in deaths of 10 percent last year – partly attributable to all the sick people parked up unable to access healthcare during the pandemic with closed surgery and health services partly due to an ageing population and other factors. 

But in a first-world country I think we should be able to expect a decent health service, and not be told it’s going to be ‘adequate’ at best.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.


Anonymous said...

Surely your son has a tiny bit of Maori DNA? If you can find it ( not sure you need proof just belief) then his health care will be provided for.

Peter van der Stam, Napier said...

This is slightly racist, but I agree.
The hospitals should get ALL non-jabbed doctors and nurses back in.
All that nonsence with this huge SCAM has to end.
Of course, all politicians are Jabbed with a placebo.
OOPS! This is also racist.