Andrew Dickens: Governments have a spend first, plan later attitude

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Thursday, 29 August 2019, 5:10PM
Sir John Kirwan helped MPs and mental health campaigners launch yet another group. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)

You wake up and you turn on the radio and you open up the paper and there right front and centre is the headline that ambulances are being used as waiting rooms because there’s no beds in the emergency department for them.

Welcome to the third world.

This is not a surprise to me because two years ago when we rushed my mum to the ED as her heart started to fail, a failure that killed her a month later, she also spent an hour and a half in an ambulance waiting for an ED bed. So this is not a new problem or a new practice. in fact the Government knew of the practice in 2008 - 11 years ago.

So what do we hear from Health Minister David Clark? It’s because the previous government underfunded it and he only found out about it at the change of government.

Frankly David, that’s it. You can’t play that card anymore. Even the association of salaried medical professionals says that trick is over.

It’s been two years since you were on the treasury benches, is that not enough time to fix glaring structural defects.  Surely while you were in the opposition you could have identified that our primary medical responder sector was overwhelmed and underfunded. Remember that report from 2008? No, you missed it.

David, imagine the positive press if you’d come in and fixed our emergency departments straight away and saved lives. What a star you'd be and your government. But you didn't: instead one of the first things your government did was flick $340 million at first year university students.

Imagine that money being thrown at EDs, or making sure there were GPs at hospital to cope with the demand for minor cases that is also swamping the emergency rooms. But no-one’s got a plan for that.

And that’s the other thing all New Zealand governments are good at doing: throwing money at things without having a plan.

Yesterday, the Government trundled Sir John Kirwan out to announce a joint working group to work on long term mental health and addiction policies. This the same week atrocious suicide statistics came out. This after $1.9 billion was pledged to mental health care in May.

It appears to everyone that we’ve got the money for mental health. The problem is we don’t have a plan. Sir John Kirwan and Mike King have been banging on about plans for years. John’s been knighted and Mike honoured as New Zealander of the Year but the guys who can make a change still have no plan..

Let’s amaze the world and change things up. Let’s have a plan first and then figure out how much it costs and then actually do it.

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