Woodhouse appointed to Opposition health role

A National shuffle was required after Jonathan Coleman announced his resignation from Parliament. Simon Bridges has appointed Michael Woodhouse to replace him as Opposition spokesperson for Health.

Michael Woodhouse.jpg

After studying commerce and accounting Woodhouse worked for an accountant, at Dunedin Hospital and for ACC before becoming CEO of the private Mercy Hospital.

He was elected as a list MP in 2008, and became a minister in the National Government in 2013.

It’s interesting (for me anyway) that the current Minister for Health, David Clark, and the new Opposition spokesperson for health have both contested the Dunedin North electorate. Especially so with the ongoing delays in announcing plans for the replacement of the Dunedin Public Hospital.

Woodhouse was ranked 10 on the National list for the 2017 election, but is currently rank #13 after Bridges’ recent appointments. That may change slightly after Coleman leaves Parliament.

1 News: National Party appoints Michael Woodhouse as new Health spokesperson

In two other National Party changes Nikki Kaye has been appointed Sport and Recreation spokesperson and Scott Simpson has been appointed Workplace Relations spokesperson.

Peters: “Filthy Rumour, Dirty Campaign”

A press release from NZ First on Friday – odd that the quotes are not attributed to anyone, but the headline gives an indication who it is.

Peters: Filthy Rumour, Dirty Campaign

Filthy Rumour, Dirty Campaign

“I was approached by a senior journalist this afternoon, whose opening question was: How is your health?

“I made it very clear to him that if he, or any other party, thinks that spreading malicious rumours will not be met with the full force of the law available to me then he, and they, would be very mistaken.

It is unfair and unreasonable for anyone to make accusations or insinuations about any candidate standing for election where there is no proof available to back it up.

So please don’t make any such comments here.

Anything patently unfair and unsupported by facts, or anything that may put this site at legal risk, will be deleted.

“For the record, this has been a long campaign in which we have worked seven days a week and I am looking forward to enjoying political life after the election.

All party leaders in particular have had very hard and demanding campaigns, especially those of opposition parties who have been campaigning for months.

If NZ First are in a position where they are included in coalition negotiations after the election then political life may continue to be torrid for some weeks.

If negotiations are successful and NZ First is a part of the next government then the hard work will continue for three years.

“PS: I was warned some time ago that this would be the next line of vicious attack.”

That sounds similar to Peters’ claim he had been pre-warned about the super leak in advance – but he has produced no evidence.

Source: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1709/S00191/peters-filthy-rumour-dirty-campaign.htm

Q+A: health debate – Coleman & Clark

On Q+A this morning: Who has the best policies for our health system?
Watch our health debate – Political Editor Corin Dann with Labour’s Dr David Clark and National’s Dr Jonathan Coleman.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, glasses

Coleman and Clark also featured on The Nation yesterday (repeated this morning at 10:00 am).

Labour on health:


Additional $8 billion investment in health over four years

See the details in our fiscal plan here.

Cut GP fees by $10 a visit with $8 GP visits for Community Services Card holders

From 1 July 2018, Labour will lower the cost of GP visits by $10 through:

  • Lowering the VLCA fee cap by $10 to $8 for adults and $2 for teens (under 13s are already free), with a funding increase to VLCA practices to cover this
  • Increasing government funding for all practices that lower their fees by $10, low (show all)

Continue reading →

National responded to Labour’s $8b:

Labour’s mythical $8b extra health spend

The Labour Party has been trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes with its mythical $8 billion extra health spend, National Party Health spokesman Dr Jonathan Coleman says.

“The ‘$8 billion more’ health spending argument is smoke and mirrors. They are simply rolling out normal baseline increases and comparing them with a mythical situation of an alternative government that apparently doesn’t add a single dollar to health expenditure for four years. That’s laughable and has simply never happened,” Dr Coleman says.

“The Labour massive extra spending myth also shows up in the amount of new budget money they propose to add each year. Labour is planning to add less in health for each year in the next four years than the National Government has added in the last budget alone.

National new budget operating spend (actual):

  • 2017/18        $879 million

Labour proposed new budget operating spend:

  • 2018/19        $847 million
  • 2019/20        $689 million
  • 2020/21        $826 million
  • 2021/22        $795 million

“The reality is every government makes big increases to the health budget. Of course it’s all about what you do with the money rather than the money itself. And the National Government has an absolute focus on lifting results from the health investments we make.

“The irony is that whether you measure by our respective history of results or just the dollars, when you compare Labour’s proposed plan with National’s track record New Zealanders would receive less from the health sector under Labour.”

The Nation: Coleman v Clark on health


There will be a debate this morning on The Nation on health spending, between the Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman, and Labour’s health spokesperson David Clark. These two have clashed a number of times in Parliament.

Health is on of the biggest issues of concern to New Zealanders. In the latest Herald-ZB-Kantar TNS online survey of 1000 voters…asked which of eight issues was most likely to affect their vote:

  • Economy 25%
  • Health 16%
  • Housing 12%

You need a healthy economy to provide good health care (and housing).

Providing healthcare is very expensive. here will never be enough money to provide all the health care wanted. Governments have to balance health spending against need and against other spending demands.

Labour have claimed that health funding has been effectively cut.

Stuff: Frustration, disappointment over health funding in Budget 2017

Patients and healthcare workers say they have been left frustrated and disappointed by “inadequate” funding for health in the 2017 Budget.

They said the Government’s announcements on Thursday would not go nearly far enough in addressing concerns about overworked staff, access to new medicines, and access to mental health treatment.

The Government said total health spending would be a record $16.77 billion in 2017/18 – an increase of $879 million, with an overall increase of $3.9b over the next four years.

However, the record claim does not take inflation into account, and sidesteps the fact that almost half the spending will go toward mandated wage increases as part of the pay equity settlement.

Budget 2017: Health funding to record levels with $1.7b injection to DHBs 

A strained health sector is set to receive a record $3.9b shot in the arm, with $1.8b going to District Health Boards (DHBs) alone.

While DHBs funding is above the $1.7b figure Labour claims has been stripped out of the health service, the Council of Trade Unions is warning the devil is in the detail.

The increase to DHB funding has built on previous years – going up to $1.8b across four years, up from $1b last year. As a yearly figure, DHBs will get $439m, up from last year’s $400m.


Economy the top concern in survey

It has long been thought that the thing that makes up the minds of voters the most when it comes to election crunch time is the economy. Other issues get aired and appear to get traction with the media and possibly the public, but a stable and strong economy seems to sway more than most.

The latest Herald-ZB-Kantar TNS online survey asked “which of eight issues was most likely to affect their vote”:

  • Economy 25%
  • Health 16%
  • Housing 12%
  • Poverty 10%
  • Immigration 9%
  • Environment 8%
  • Education 8%
  • Unemployment 3%
  • None of these issues 9%

This isn’t surprising as the economy impacts on each of the other seven issues. You need a strong economy to be able to afford to deal with the rest.

The economy was the top pick for both genders and across employed, self-employed and unemployed voters although housing slightly edged out the economy among young, urban voters in their 20s.

Young voters are most affected by escalating house prices but they are also the lowest voting age group.

Overall there is quite a spread of views on what should be done about house prices.

There were different concerns in Auckland to other areas.

Unsurprisingly, housing was more important to Aucklanders than other New Zealanders in the survey. It was the second most important issue in Auckland chosen by 18% of Aucklanders compared to 9% of those in the rest of the North Island.

A higher proportion of Aucklanders also selected immigration as a big issue than those living elsewhere. It was a big issue to 12% of Auckland respondents compared to 9 % overall.

The survey of 1000 was conducted from July 19-26 and the margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 per cent. It is an online survey by ConsumerLink which runs the Fly Buys panel of 120,000 active members, one of the largest in New Zealand. The sampling was nationally representative and post-weighted by age, gender and region to match the population.

Because it has only started surveying recently and asks different questions to other polls it’s hard to compare the Herald-ZB-Kantar TNS online surveys, so hard to evaluate how accurate they might be.

‘Neoliberalism’ versus New Zealand reality

Deborah Russell has circulated one attempt to describe neoliberalism, which shows how far from this New Zealand is, and hardly moving closer:

That’s quite different to reality in New Zealand

  1. Private enterprise is far from free of any Government restrictions here.
    There are a lot of regulatory, tax, safety and procedural restrictions – New Zealand is rated as a relatively easy place to do do business but try asking any property valuer how difficult and time consuming and costly it can be to work with the resource Management Act.
  2. Public expenditure in general continues to increase.
    There is some claims of real term cuts due to not keeping pace with inflation but the Government keeps spending more and more money.
  3. There have been some attempts to reduce regulations to help businesses provide goods and services and jobs and export earnings 9and make profits) but they have been far from comprehensive. The RMA has gradually become harder to work with, not easier.
  4. There was quite a bit of privatisation in the 80s and 90s but that has slowed right down.
    The current government in their last term sold minority shares only in a small number of power companies. There are a small number of partnership schools but most are run by trusts rather than profit seeking companies. There is some moving of state housing to social housing providers but again they are non-profit organisations.
  5. ‘Public good’ is far from eliminated, with beneficiaries having been recently given their first real increase in forty years. There have been recent increases in health subsidies (free up to age 13), and education, particularly through early childhood education subsidies.

While there may have been significant moves towards some neoliberalism, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, this has slowed down markedly and New Zealand is far from these descriptions of ‘neoliberalism’.


Labour’s health petition whopper

This week’s petition from Labour is aimed at fixing our tax system. Perhaps Labour should aim at on fixing their honesty, or their research or maths.

Sign this petition

To the New Zealand Government

Fund our health system properly so New Zealanders can get the treatment they need.

That’s hopelessly vague. More detail:

Sign the petition to fix our health system

In just six years, National has cut a whopping $1.7 billion from our healthcare system.

Every day we hear stories of how these cuts are impacting Kiwis’ lives. Stories of struggling to pay for the GP; missing out on the medicines they need; and health professionals who are exhausted and overstretched. It’s not right and we have to fix it.

To fix our system, we need to make sure Kiwis know this is a vital issue and they need to vote to change the Government at the election next year.

To make sure health is an election issue, we need to build a massive campaign calling on the Government to ensure the health system can provide the services Kiwis need. A huge petition can’t be ignored and together we can make sure health gets the attention it needs.

A petition this vague, huge or otherwise, will be easily ignored. Health funding is a big issue but this won’t do anything to help our health system.

Plus there is nothing from Labour about how they might ‘fix’ our health system.

Has the Government cut a whopping $1.7 billion from our healthcare system?

The Budget Economic and Fiscal Update 2016 (BEFU) published on 26 May 2016, health spending from Treasury’s Core Crown Expense Table (billions):

  • 2011 – $13.753
  • 2012 – $14.160
  • 2013 – $14.498
  • 2014 – $14.898
  • 2015 – $15.058
  • 2016 – $15.635
  • Forecast for 2017 – $16.214

That’s an increase of $2.461 billion, not a decrease of $1.7 billion as claimed in the petition.

Perhaps Labour is using some different numbers, but with no details it’s impossible to tell how they have come up with a whopping reduction.

It looks more like a whopper of a lie.

On Hillary Clinton’s health

There’s been a lot of comment and claims – especially from the Donald Trump camp, about the health of Hillary Clinton. She has recently had obvious problems with her voice and coughing.

She left a 911 event abruptly (overnight NZ time) and that ramped up the speculation.

Here is the official medical explanation.csgnqnvxeaauvsi

That’s feasible but it won’t stop the speculation and claims of conspiracies, like: BREAKING: Hillary Clinton unable to stand, media cover-up started.

It’s a no holds barred, anything goes campaign when the US presidency and supposedly the most powerful job in the world is at stake – and mega billions of dollars are potentially at stake for vested interests.

Campaigns can be physically extremely demanding, even for fit young people.

It’s shaping up to be a contest of the maddest versus the crookest – multiple meanings deliberately intended (crookest and crookedest are interchangeable). Pick for yourself who which applies to.

Hague pawn apology but makes key points

Green health spokesperson Kevin Hague has apologised  for saying sick people were lobbying pawns for the pharmaceutical industry – there’s some truth to that but probably not worded as well as it could have been.

But he makes the key points about needing to separate political interference from Pharmac decisions and that underfunding was the real issue.

Radio NZ: Green MP apologises for drug pawn comment

Yesterday, melanoma sufferers and their supporters delivered a petition signed by over 11,000 people to Parliament, calling for funding for immunotherapy drug Keytruda.

Mr Hague said he was wrong and insensitive to suggest the sufferers were pawns.

“I don’t regard those people who came to Parliament yesterday as pawns. If I was in their position, I would have done the same thing,” he said.

People with life threatening illnesses who can’t get access to drugs that may save their life are in an invidious position. But being used by pharmaceutical companies or by politicians to try and pressure a non-political entity like Pharmac is tricky.

He had been trying to make the more general point that if politicians intervened in Pharmac’s drug funding decisions it would create an environment where drug companies would focus their attention on publicity campaigns, he said.

“What I am criticising is the actions of politicians from several sides who have indicated that they would definitely fund this drug.

“As a politician, it’s clear that that would be a popular decision … but it would be the wrong thing to do.”

New Zealand’s pharmaceuticals budget had been underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars and that was where the political focus should be, Mr Hague said.

That’s exactly where the pressure should be applied.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says he is pushing for more funding in the upcoming budget, and opposition parties should be helping promote his case.

But demanding instant changes to Pharmac decision making – that has to be careful from  cost and from a health angles – using dying people is not helpful to those people who may think the action might suddenly change things for them.

“Treat the abuse of drugs and alcohol as a health issue”

Moves continue more towards drug and alcohol issues more as health problems than criminal problems.

NZ Herald reports: Value in new drug addiction approach

An “inspiring” Auckland rehabilitation centre shows why a recent shift to treat the abuse of drugs and alcohol as a health issue is warranted, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says.

A substantial number of patients at Higher Ground Facility in Te Atatu, which Mr Dunne visited today, are being treated for methamphetamine.

“It was extraordinarily impressive and very moving. There is a highly dedicated staff, really well motivated residents, and just a sort of a buzz that everyone was there to do a job about making life better for the people who are the residents there,” Mr Dunne said.

It’s good to see promising results with a more compassionate approach.

Mr Dunne recently launched the 2015-2020 National Drug Policy, which could significantly reform the treatment of drugs such as cannabis.

“We are shifting the focus very deliberately to seeing drug-related issues primarily as health issues, and I keep using three words in respect of the principles that underline the policy – compassion, innovation and proportion.

“Compassion in terms of a sympathetic response to people’s issues, innovation in looking a new and different ways of tackling old problems…and proportion, making sure we get the balance right all the way through.”


The new national drug policy has five priority areas, one of which is “getting the legal balance right”. The Ministry of Health will work with the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs to make sure that classification decisions on drugs were focussed on harm.

Work will also take place to examine whether the law and enforcement measures around drug possession and utensil possession are still reasonable and proportionate.

When it was released, the policy was hailed as hugely significant by the NZ Drug Foundation, who say it signalled an armistice in “The War on Drugs”.

Treating the abuse of drugs and alcohol as a health issue would mean prevention, education and treatment would take priority over the criminal justice approach, the foundation said.

Dealing with the health issues will help prevent them becoming criminal issues, or break the habit and cycle.

I think that Dunne is doing as much as he can in moving the handling of drug issues in a better direction. It’s taking a while but there are signs of a far more realistic and hopefully more effective approach.