ZB

Covid exposure: Health Minister forced to rush home to isolate

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Wed, 4 May 2022, 12:10pm
Health Minister Andrew Little. (Photo / George Heard)
Health Minister Andrew Little. (Photo / George Heard)

Covid exposure: Health Minister forced to rush home to isolate

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Wed, 4 May 2022, 12:10pm

Health Minister Andrew Little has been exposed to Covid-19 via someone in his home.

The Cabinet minister posted on social media that he was a household contact, and as such has cancelled all his programmes and will be returning home immediately by private car.

Little was in Auckland this morning announcing the Government's plan to tackle the extensive hospital waiting lists.

Little announced the Government's plan this morning saying the number of people waiting longer than four months for hospital treatment had more than doubled from about 15,000 in February 2020 to nearly 36,000 currently.

He expected it would take "considerably less time" to clear the backlog by taking a national approach rather than leaving it up to 20 different DHBs, which was estimated to take three to five years.

More patients will be being diverted to other regions if there was no capacity at their own hospital and public hospitals will be off-loading some patients to private care where possible, Little said.

It's understood if a patient does need to fly to another region for care their transport costs would be publicly funded. It was not clear if that would include a support person.

The response will be led by interim Health New Zealand and the interim Māori Health Authority - both of which will become permanent entities when the Government health reforms come into effect on July 1.

"I expect a national review of all waiting lists and a reassessment of the situation of everyone on it," Little said.

"With one public health system, we have the opportunity to work together to make sure people get the treatment they need, no matter which part of the country they live in."

When asked by the Herald if the minister was aware some DHBs were still only taking life-threatening referrals from GPs, Little said he wasn't familiar with that but it was that sort of stuff they wanted to get on top of.

"That illustrates the problem that if your a GP with a patient and the only place you can refer someone to is your local DHB, when there might be more space in a different hopsital...we want to make sure people can get care even if it isn't at their local hospital."

The minister said there was money that had been allocated a couple of years ago, $280 million, to help clear the backlog.

"Some of that had been used but not all, so there is funding there available to help us work our way through this particular backlog. The taskforce and Health NZ and the Maori Health Authority will work through what the financial needs are."

He said Covid-19 had been hugely disruptive to hospital systems all over the world but New Zealand was doing better than most countries.

"Our elimination strategy not only prevented tens of thousands of deaths, it also protected our health system from being over-run, as we saw happen in countries like Italy and the United States.

"In fact, for most of the past two years, our hospitals have been free of Covid-19 and were able to keep functioning normally for long periods of time.

"Now, with the benefit of having one of the most highly vaccinated populations in the world, and with a suite of new medicines available to treat Covid-19 patients and keep many of them out of hospital, we can start managing on a more business-as-usual basis."

A Herald review of recovery plans filed by all 20 DHBs, identified dozens of services that were already under severe stress before the pandemic struck.