Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Point of Order: Buzz from the Beehive - 28/2/24

Puff! And before you can get through a packet of 20, Parliament will have stubbed out parts of Labour’s smoke-free law

Health dominated the government’s announcements over the past 24 hour or so, at the same time as Parliament was debating legislation to abolish the Maori Health Authority and repeal parts of the previous government’s planned changes to regulate smoked tobacco.

Health Minister Shane Reti brandished a report from the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) report released today. It had been commissioned by the previous government to provide an independent assessment on health reform implementation.

Reti says a significant number of the problems uncovered by the MAC stem from a lack of Ministerial oversight and political incompetence.

The points from the report which he was eager to highlight were:
  • significant ongoing pressures for community and primary care, including around access and sustainability
  • confusion over the role of ‘localities’ in the new system
  • an urgent need for an agreed public health operating model
  • risk around Health New Zealand – Te Whatu Ora’s ‘transformation’ change being subsumed by operational challenges
Associate Health Minister David Seymour announced changes to Pharmac procedures to enable funding applications to be assessed at the same time as Medsafe is assessing the application for regulatory approval.

Australia and Canada already use this process, Semour said, and in New Zealand Pharmac has been successfully using it for cancer medicines. Now, medicines in all therapeutic areas will go through this more streamlined process.

“This is the first change as part of this Government’s commitment to improving access to medicines. The ACT/National coalition document also commits to making changes to require Medsafe to approve new pharmaceuticals within 30 days of them being approved by at least two overseas regulatory agencies recognised by New Zealand.”

Associate Health Minister Casey Costello announced the introduction of the Smokefree Amendment Bill.

Likely to be debated and enacted faster than a smoker can puff through a packet of 20 cigarettes, this will repeal three parts of the previous Government’s planned changes to regulate smoked tobacco.

Costello drew attention to data which (she claimed) show some of the largest drops in smoking rates across the world in recent years.

The government aims to build on the practical tools and approaches that have worked to date, she said.

“I will soon be taking a package of measures to cabinet to increase the tools available to help people quit smoking, while at the same time tightening regulations on vaping to prevent young people accessing vapes.

“As a first step, however, today’s Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Amendment Bill will deliver on the Government’s 100-Day commitments and repeal three parts of the last government’s Smokefree legislation: the retail reduction scheme, denicotinisation, and the smokefree generation measures.”

None of these measures are currently in place with Labour’s changes planned for later this year, 2025 and 2027.

Costello referenced New Zealand Health Survey results released in December last year which showed 6.8 per cent of New Zealanders are smoking daily, down from 8.6% the previous year, and 16.4 per cent in 2011/12 when the survey began.

Latest from the Beehive

28 FEBRUARY 2024

Associate Transport Minister Matt Doocey announced today that the Government has extended Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines’ strategic alliance for another five years.

Health Minister Dr Shane Reti says the latest report into New Zealand’s health reforms shows a few benefits, but overall once again demonstrates a lack of leadership by the previous Labour government.

Pharmac is changing its process so it can assess a funding application at the same time Medsafe is assessing the application for regulatory approval.

The Government has today introduced an Amendment Bill that will repeal three parts of the previous Government’s planned changes to regulate smoked tobacco.

In his statement on reform of the health system, Shane Reti acknowledged the positives which are mentioned in the Ministerial Advisory Committee report.

This included delivery of last year’s Winter Preparedness Plan and a more effective way of transferring patients between areas to get access to treatment.

But overall, it was clear that “turning the health ship around will take years of intensive work,” Dr Reti says.

“For that to happen, it’s going to mean putting workforce at the fore. Frontline health workers must have the resources and support they need to provide effective health services.”

The coalition Government was is committed to delivering solutions that provide better health outcomes for all New Zealanders, Reti insisted.

National had committed to not going back to the DHB model (“it’s too far down the process to go back”).

But he did not provide details when reiterating that the government is “committed to ensuring the health system is fit for purpose with a clear pragmatic direction and a focus on workforce, targets and infrastructure.”

The progress assessment was produced by the Ministerial Advisory Committee for health reform implementation and can be found at Proactive release of reforms-related documents | Ministry of Health NZ

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

No comments: