Middlemore mould, health budget hole, the budget

Since the new Government took over there seems to have been a reduction in stories about hard done by beneficiaries and people living rough. But there has been a lot of lobbying going on before new Minister of Finance Grant Robertson’s first budget – nurses want more money, so do teachers, and health is always short of funds.

The Government is faced with a difficult decision over a new prison to cater for growing prisoner numbers. They have committed to a number of costs like benefit increases, the the ‘winter heating’ handout, free university fees, NZ First has been given a billion dollars a year to dole out to regions, and a major shift in transport funding has just been announced.

There’s been a number of curious things coming out about health and hospitals, perhaps not coincidentally leading up to next month’s budget. Is the public being prepared for a policy switch to justify increased health spending? More tax or more debt?

Suddenly it seems it has been discovered that there are major mould problems with multiple buildings at Middlemore Hospital.

Earlier this week – Ardern: Don’t blame us for health sector problems

The Prime Minister says National would have known the shortfall in the health spend when they were in government.

Jacinda Ardern says there’s a hole of around $10 billion – and that’s one of the reasons why her Government cancelled planned tax cuts scheduled for this month.

“I would have thought a minister of health would probably know that,” Ardern says.

Ardern says for National to claim they knew nothing about things like the mould at Middlemore Hospital is disingenuous.

Staff at Middlemore have also claimed they knew nothing about it.

“One of the latest emerging problems is the news that the buildings at Middlemore Hospital have become rotten and infested with a toxic black mould. I found out in the middle of a late-night ward round from a Radio NZ journalist who phoned seeking comment – I had none, because it was news to me. The next morning, the rest of our staff and all of New Zealand heard the story and over the next few days there followed a confusion of detail about the extent of the problems and who knew what when.”


So has the mould information only just come out, or did the last Minister of Health keep it a secret for this long?


“It is worse than we thought, when we look at the capital needs of hospitals and health in particular, [and] also the deficits DHBs are facing, it is worse than I anticipated.”

Blaming the previous Government is normal, as is acting surprised about higher costs than anticipated.

If people don’t pay as much on tax they can afford to spend more on health perhaps.

I would have thought that Steven Joyce would have proved the $11.7 billion hole existed if he could. Was he right, but hid details?

Or is Labour now trying to claim they have been duped?

It’s hard to know whether some of this is part or a PR plan or not, softening the public up for ‘unexpected’ increases in budget costs, and a sudden need to fund this through more taxes. National sort of did that by increasing GST, but they also decreased personal tax rates and had a Global Financial Crisis to deal with.

It’s hard to trust either Labour or National as they throw around blame and claims and money.

Talking of $11.7 billion, this may be just a coincidence, but the same number was noticed here: