Government to drip feed health underfunding stories pre-budget

Former Health Minister Jonathan has finally spoken about what he knew about the building problems at Middlemore Hospital that seem to have suddenly emerged.

RNZ: Coleman says documents show he didn’t know about hospital rot

RNZ has been reporting on hospital buildings at Middlemore Hospital that are full of rot and potentially dangerous mould. There’s also asbestos present and raw sewage leaking into the walls.

Earlier today, National Party leader Simon Bridges told Morning Report Dr Coleman did not know about Middlemore’s building problems.

In a blog post this afternoon Dr Coleman said he had been reviewing a couple of “very pertinent” documents.

“It’s just not credible to say that Middlemore Building problems were widely known about and I would have known,” he wrote.

This claim that was made in late March to Morning Report by former Counties Manukau District Health Board chair Lee Mathias.

“Most people in Wellington knew of the situation Middlemore was in,” she said then.

She also said the state of the buildings was covered in board minutes that were publicly available. However, the DHB has blocked the release of these minutes to RNZ under the Official Information Act.

More withholding of information under the OIA.

But the Government seems intent on not withholding information about health underfunding heading into next month’s budget.

RNZ:  PM hints of further public underfunding revelations

The government is going to drip feed stories of public sector underfunding by the previous government in the run-up to next month’s Budget, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has indicated.

Ms Ardern is playing down expectations of a big spending budget next month saying her government did not realise how bad the under-investment in public services had been under National.

She said it was now clear National put budget surpluses ahead of the wellbeing of New Zealanders, and chronically short-changed public services.

“I’ve always said that from the beginning we thought it would be bad, we didn’t know it would be this bad.

“And the public is seeing just a snapshot of it now, the state of Middlemore Hospital I think is emblematic of what we’re seeing across the board.”

I get the feeling that the public were played during the election campaign, and are being played by politicians now – with DHBs possibly complicit.

Ardern:

“What we are flagging is that as we’ve gone through this process we’ve uncovered things we didn’t expect. We want to build more transparency around that as we lead up to Budget day.

“As ministers we have been engaging in this conversation for some time, we’ve decided it’s one we should be having with the public too.”

The public could have done with factual information on health and hospital funding long ago. This sort of waffle in an apparent attempt to manage pre-budget PR is crap. If Ardern has information she should just present it all now.  Instead she seems to be intent on playing a risky game. Not all information that is drip fed could look good for Labour.

So why did the Middlemore building story just start to emerge now? It sounds too serious and important to be used as political misinformation.

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49 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  April 10, 2018

    Robertson’s incompetence in costing his “aspirational” vote buying policies & their inability to do what they said they would needs to be explained away somehow. As with indirect taxes disguised as levies wherever they can, claims of gross underfunding and of National hiding relevant information in all sorts of areas were inevitable.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  April 10, 2018

      Now they’re saying that National let schools reach a stage where demolition is all that can be done,

      Do they think that people will believe this ?

      Reply
      • Traveller

         /  April 10, 2018

        They need to act like adults. They’re at the big table now

        We, the voters have kids in schools, we use the health service. We know the reality. Scores of state of the art schools built, scores more upgraded. The take up of preschool improved out of sight.

        It’s embarrassing they’re so out of touch

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  April 10, 2018

          What disappoints me is that we got enough lies and obfuscation from National and now we have to put up with it from Labour, NZF and the Greens.

          Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  April 11, 2018

          Hopeless. How could things have deteriorated so badly without anyone noticing ? They couldn’t have. I have spent enough time around the hospital here to have noticed if it was that bad, and see the local schools which look all right to me. I think that one would hear if these were that decrepit.

          Reply
  2. artcroft

     /  April 10, 2018

    This govt is sailing into rough weather. Labour has bribed the students and the provinces, but now wants to close the lolly bag without paying off the middle class, who missed out on tax cuts. Jacinda, who is their talisman is off soon on maternity leave, so won’t be there to charm NZ and the media. Instead it’ll be Winston explaining why Labour can’t pay nurses and teachers more.
    My guess is that Grant decides to throw the fiscal responsibility pledge overboard and borrow, borrow, borrow.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  April 10, 2018

      could be artcroft…’and borrow, borrow, borrow.’…stealing another one of …National’s policies.

      Reply
      • artcroft

         /  April 10, 2018

        Then how come everyone on the left complains that National focused on delivering “short sighted surpluses” and then you complain that National borrowed too much. Which is it Blazer?

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  April 10, 2018

          it doesn’t really matter now.
          I favour continuous ..deficits.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  April 10, 2018

            The lower income people are being given the finger, too.

            Reply
            • Flashback to 2008

  3. Blazer

     /  April 10, 2018

    its too much to digest in one sitting.Middlemore and Brownlee’s bungling in Christchurch just harbingers of a total clusterfuck left behind by those…. ‘sound economic managers’.

    Reply
  4. Strong For Life

     /  April 10, 2018

    Sorry comrades there is not enough money in the kitty to carry out all that we promised. The Honourable Minister Robertson has no choice but to increase borrowing even though he said he would not. Thank you for your understanding comrades.

    Reply
  5. David

     /  April 10, 2018

    It was widely pointed out there was no room in their spending plans so its no surprise 2 former political operatives are trying to find smart arse ways of blaming small pay rises for teachers, nurses and other health workers on a dodgy building, managing expectations downwards without the competency and reputation of Bill English.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  April 10, 2018

      yes Bill borrowed 100billion….what a wonderful guy.

      I am a big fan of Nations borrowing these days…so much Q.E ,go for your life…debts are unpayable and ‘money’ is created out of…thin air.

      Just don’t pledge land and resources as…security.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 10, 2018

        The teachers’ union has, as I understand it, traded off pay rises against other things.

        Reply
        • duperez

           /  April 10, 2018

          I read that to a teacher who was at a union meeting recently. If 16% over two years is the traded down pay rise for other things I’d hate to think what the starting figure was.

          Reply
  6. Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  April 10, 2018

      Well, if it’s that bad, why didn’t she know ? How slack. She was part of the government and I don’t believe that National kept all these things secret.

      Reply
  7. David

     /  April 10, 2018

    The problems listed at Middlemore are ones that manifest themselves over time and its odd the DHB never said anything about them.
    As to the extent it could be anything from getting a plumber in to fix a leak that no one had noticed until black mold appeared, happened at one of my properties, or the building is a leaker and needs replacing but its a stretch to say its under funding by the previous government when no one asked them for money to replace/fix it in the first place.
    Hopefully the media will be able to investigate these stories by actually having the government comply with the OIA for a change.

    Reply
    • Callum

       /  April 10, 2018

      The whole story is clearly a beatup on the previous government. How can a board chair claim it was well known about and discussed in public minutes, then the board refuses to release what has been claimed was already public?

      Reply
  8. PDB

     /  April 10, 2018

    This is shaping as one of those stories the MSM love – run the Govt line for a while knowing full well that it isn’t the full story and then later turn on them with the alternative view that shows the new govt making shit up. This happened with Turei to an extent – gave her oxygen for a while and then slammed her with the facts.

    Withholding the meeting minutes proving the DHB had been up in arms on this issue earlier is not a good look if the issue was so clean-cut. If Middlemore was so bad why didn’t the DHB go the usual MSM route to highlight the issue during National’s term?

    Joyce was correct – Labour’s financial hole was in having no money to fund day-to-day public service cost increases such as wage increases and to cover their disappointing budget they are pretending they did have the money but it has to go on fixing up problems caused by the previous govt.

    Reply
    • alloytoo

       /  April 10, 2018

      The MSM would have loved to get stuck into the government prior to the election on this issue.

      Reply
  9. PDB

     /  April 10, 2018

    Ardern: “We want to build more transparency around that as we lead up to Budget day.”

    Experience now tells us if Ardern mentions the word ‘transparency’ it will be the complete opposite.

    Reply
    • alloytoo

       /  April 10, 2018

      Jacinda is completely transparent, even the MSM can see through her now.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  April 10, 2018

        Jacinda is becoming nothing but an endless source of jargon-speak making up and repeating catchy words & phrases that are either vague, a distortion of the original meaning, or just dopey. Her talk sounds more and more hollow as the months progress. I had higher hopes of her than this.

        Reply
  10. PDB

     /  April 10, 2018

    Issue seems pretty clear cut here & Coleman is correct;

    National govt not told of any problems by the DHB even though they reckon the buildings had problems for up to 6 years: “Counties Manukau DHB was reluctant to ask the previous government for funding to fix mouldy, rotting and unstable buildings because of pressure from ministers to stay in surplus, its acting CEO says.”

    “The DHB has been aware of some of the issues for about four to six years, but was hesitant to ask for any funding to fix them.”

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018638070/hospital-building-issues-not-raised-due-to-budget-restraints

    So we have only two scenarios: The DHB was incompetent in either not telling the govt of problems or not dealing with the problems themselves (note they say they did spend money building further buildings & we now know around $240 million in unspent capital budget), or they are lying as is the Labour govt.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  April 10, 2018

      yes the rehearsed response is now available…no ones fault!

      Reply
      • Reply
  11. Patzcuaro

     /  April 10, 2018

    I think that the cost of providing and maintaining the hospital buildings should be separated out from the cost of providing healthcare services. This would provide for greater transparency.

    It appears that the DHBs are telling the minister what he wants to hear. Under Coleman it was living within your means, now the Labour party wants to get all the dirty laundry out while they can blame the National government.

    Putting the buildings into a stand alone entity with reduced DHBs, say four and a property company would be a better model.

    Reply
    • PDB

       /  April 10, 2018

      Simply put the two items (Capital upkeep & running costs) are linked and if managed correctly it is better for DHB’s to be in control of the entire budget rather than a portion of it. There is nothing stopping the DHB having a dedicated buildings manager – I’m sure they already have one. I agree there are too many DHB’s – five looks like the best number in order to still maintain adequate regional coverage.

      The fact it appears the DHB didn’t raise the issues for up to 6 years until Labour became govt and also had millions of $ left in unspent capital budget suggests the DHB management is at fault if there are long-standing maintenance issues. These DHB CEO’s are paid huge salaries but can’t run a building maintenance budget?

      Reply
  12. phantom snowflake

     /  April 10, 2018

    Coleman and former DHB chair disagree concerning Coleman’s knowledge of the problems at Middlemore Hospital:

    The DHB’s former chairwoman Lee Mathias responded to his [Coleman’s] post, saying there was “nothing dodgy or secret” about the state of Middlemore’s buildings.
    “All very well known over years and regularly reported as Ministers, including Coleman, signed off remedial work e.g. the complete rebuild of the Mental Health facility in Minister Coleman’s case,” she said.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/102956297/former-health-minister-claims-dhb-never-told-him-about-middlemore-building-issues

    Reply
    • PDB

       /  April 10, 2018

      From your link: “To use life of building percentages is misleading as that includes a brand new $298 million Clinical Services block opened in 2014.”

      Middlemore has been totally modernised in the past 9 years or so, the difference is striking if you are familiar with the site. Lee Mathias is also disagreeing with the acting CEO who said over the past 6 years they were too scared to ask the National-led govt for extra funding to repair the mould etc. If the report is true that around $200 million was underspent by the DHB on its capital budget then money was obviously not an issue.

      Labour decided students deserved close to $3 billion and are now trying to cover their own bad budgetary choices and ‘fiscal holes’ by blaming the previous govt.

      Reply
    • PDB

       /  April 10, 2018

      To add: I find it very hard to believe that if the Middlemore issues were ‘nothing dodgy or secret’ and well known in Wellington as Lee Mathias makes out that the Labour opposition, with close ties to the public/health sector, did not appear to know either and therefore never raised them before or during the election campaign where such information would have been like gold to the opposition.

      Reply
      • phantom snowflake

         /  April 10, 2018

        I’m not taking sides on this; I have no idea who to believe. Your implication is that Mathias is lying, which is possible although her motive for doing so at this stage is obscure to me.

        Reply
        • PDB

           /  April 10, 2018

          All I’m stating is what is known, and the fact Mathias and the acting CEO have different stories regarding how widely known the issues were. Unspent capital funds by the DHB further cloud the issue as does Labour not finding out whilst in opposition.

          Ironically (and maybe further complicating things) back in 2012;

          Herald: “National is being accused of cronyism after three people closely affiliated with the party were appointed to the board of a new agency for promoting health programmes.”

          “Dr Mathias was also electoral chair for National MP Sam Lotu-Iiga.”

          “Labour Party State Services spokesman Chris Hipkins said political involvement should be a barrier to Government appointments, especially in advocacy areas.”

          “I think the Government needs to tread very carefully. Three National Party office-holders on one board, particularly given the nature of the board, with an advocacy role, it seems to me is pretty questionable.”

          Reply
          • phantom snowflake

             /  April 10, 2018

            I wasn’t aware of Wanda Lee Mathias’ National Party pedigree. Splendid! Perhaps Mathias vs. Coleman is a National Party faction proxy war LOL…

            Reply
  13. Oh dear. I shouldn’t imagine Labour would ever want to get into a row on underfunding Health. I know it’s just a political ruse, but with their abysmal history in that portfolio I thought they’d have avoided it.

    A great source for articles on the horrendous state of affairs 2001-2008 is in Bryce Edwards archives. For several years mainly breast and prostate cancer patients were flown across the Tasman for treatment such was their failure to “invest in Health”. I mean years of cancer patients heading overseas because they wouldn’t invest in radiation machines and sort out their broken system. !!!!!!

    There ain’t an area of health investment National hasn’t improved and it’s very easy to prove, including:

    Frontline staffing
    Elective surgery
    Immunisation
    Access to Emergency
    Access to Cancer treatment
    Smoking cessation
    Smoking take up

    As to the strident rambling of Gracinda. A reality check from David Farrar. “ the nature of Government is you always get unexpected expenses. This is why Governments normally allow $1.5 billion a year or so of operational allowances to cater for unexpected expenses. The problem Labour has is that they have pre-allocated almost all of their future operational allowances – this is the point Steven Joyce was trying to make.

    The mould issue at Middlemore is not a hugely expensive one. An estimate I’ve seen is it might cost $25 million to fix. The Government spends over $70 billion a year.

    The previous Government had huge unexpected expenses. $20 billion or so on the Christchurch earthquakes. Hundreds of millions on Kaikoura. Pike River. The Rena cost $50 million etc. To have Labour cry shock and horror because one DHB has an unanticipated expense just shows how unused to governing they are.”

    No matter what they try they’re looking incompetent and whiny. They’re at the adults table now they need to grow up and act like a government.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  April 10, 2018

      I just don’t accept your argument…at all.

      Reply
      • High Flying Duck

         /  April 10, 2018

        Your go to line whenever a cogent factual post is put up that shows the new emperor has no clothes, and the last one achieved more than you give credit for.

        Which particular facts do you not accept and why?

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  April 10, 2018

          none of it…no fact there at ..all.

          Reply
          • Traveller

             /  April 10, 2018

            Blazer

            Health was a mess under Labour. There wasn’t as aspect of it that the Nats haven’t improved.

            32% more doctors

            From 65% of Cancer patients treated within 4 weeks to 100%

            44,000 more elective surgeries each year under National since 2008

            The list goes on.

            Reply

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