John MacDonald: We're too selfish to be bothered fixing our hospital system

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 Apr 2022, 12:37pm
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

John MacDonald: We're too selfish to be bothered fixing our hospital system

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 Apr 2022, 12:37pm

How many times have you heard someone say something like ‘if there weren’t people involved, it would all work perfectly’?

We’ve probably all said it at some point, haven’t we? Because people aren’t machines or computers. You can’t programme people to think the same way or do the same things. And, generally, what we think and what we do comes down to one thing: selfishness.

We are all selfish. It is a fact. I’m selfish. You’re selfish. We’re all selfish.

And the two most selfish groups of people in society are politicians and voters. Which means pretty much most people reading this are guilty as charged. If you’re over-18 - that’s you.

I had a bit of an epiphany about this earlier this morning when I was listening to Dr Ashley Bloomfield talking with Mike Hosking.

Amid all the chat about traffic light settings - and no change coming from the Prime Minister yesterday - what really struck me was, yet again, it’s the state of our hospital system that is holding us back.

There were two figures that rammed it home for me. We have a population of around 5 million, with about 700 people in hospital with Covid or because of Covid - about 0.014 percent.

That’s it. We have 0.014 percent of the population in hospital either with or because of Covid, and our hospitals can’t cope.

But as Ashley Bloomfield pointed out, Covid isn’t the only reason our hospitals aren’t coping.

Here’s what he told Hosking.

He said: “It’s not Covid and, in particular, Omicron that’s adding to that pressure. The system is under a lot of pressure even without an Omicron outbreak.”

I bet that was music to the ears of the doctors and the nurses who’ve been banging on for years about this. “The system is under a lot of pressure”.

That’s what Ashley Bloomfield said.

And do you know why it’s under pressure? Ashley Bloomfield says it’s not just because of Covid. I’ll tell you why it’s under pressure. It’s because you’re selfish, I’m selfish, and our politicians are selfish. This is the nub of it - I don’t know why it hasn’t occurred to me sooner. But it has now.

It’s not Covid’s fault that our hospitals are struggling. It’s our fault. All of us who are either voters or politicians.

It’s our fault because we only care about ourselves and what’s in it for us. And our politicians only care about themselves and what’s in it for them.

If they weren’t selfish, they wouldn’t rabbit on about a cost of living crisis or they wouldn’t tinker with fuel taxes just to make it a bit cheaper to fill up the tank.

They just care about getting re-elected. If they weren’t selfish, they’d stand up and say 'our hospitals are a disaster, we have failed the people of New Zealand for many years by not investing in our hospital system, and we are going to do something about it. But it’s going to mean spending a truckload of money and it’s going to take a very long time to fix'.

And as for us, if we weren’t selfish, we wouldn’t be demanding tax cuts and cheaper petrol and cheaper groceries.

Instead, we’d be thinking, ‘my God, what sort of hospital system is going to be around for our kids and grandkids in 20 years’ time? We need to invest in that, we need to vote in governments that are prepared to do that. We can’t be selfish about this'.

But do you think people will ever do that? Do you think politicians will ever do that?

Well, right now. I don’t have much faith that we, as a country, are prepared to take a long time view like that when it comes to our hospital system.

And when the next pandemic rolls around - we’ll be in the same boat. And, like Dr Ashley Bloomfield says, it won’t just be because of a pandemic, it’ll be because the hospital system is permanently under pressure.

As the Director-General of Health said this morning: “we are adapting as we go”. Which means flying the plane while we’re still building it.

And that is absolutely shameful. And we are all to blame - because we only care about ourselves in the here and now. And our politicians only care about what happens at the next election.

Some pretty major change is needed if we are going to have any hope in hell of having a hospital system that is more robust than what we’ve got at the moment - which, as the Director-General of Health is saying today, is struggling - with just 0.014 percent of New Zealand’s population in hospital with or because of Covid.

It is shameful.