Barry Soper: Could NZ have done better in Covid-19 fight?

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 6 May 2020, 10:10AM
Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

Barry Soper: Could NZ have done better in Covid-19 fight?

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 6 May 2020, 10:10AM

As a nation we have been like a flock of sheep for the past six weeks with orders being barked from the Beehive.

Given the fear that this country's been thrown into, being frequently told from the start we should treat everyone as though they have Covid-19, it's hardly surprising everyone we pass in the street gets a sideways glance and a wide berth.

We have all accepted it and have frequently been congratulated by Jacinda Ardern for achieving so much as part of the team, even though membership of the team is hardly voluntary.

Criticise the captain and vice-captain of the team, Ardern and health director general Ashley Bloomfield, though, and you do so at your peril, knowing the social media trolls will massacre you with the vilest vitriol imaginable.

But we still live in a democracy and we're all entitled to have a say, no matter how unpalatable it might be to some.

If we accept it's permissible to allow someone to die alone, it's a democracy that I'm not happy to live in. That's what's been happening since the lockdown and that's what some of us have been publicly railing against with little or no sympathy from some quarters.

In this modern day and age, with all the medical technology available, surely it's not impossible to make the environment safe enough to visit? That's most certainly the case of Oliver Christiansen who came back from Britain to be with his father who was dying, not with Covid-19, but of brain cancer.

Oliver did what was expected of him by going into mandatory quarantine, expecting to stay there for 14 days. His father became desperately ill and he wanted to be with him before he died.

Several appeals to the Health Ministry on compassionate grounds failed and out of desperation, and no doubt a lot of cost, he took a case to the High Court and was rightly given permission to see his dad, who is now dead. What makes it even worse is that the father wasn't even in hospital, he was at his home so there was little risk to the public.

Ardern initially told us 24 people were wanting to see their dying loved ones but 18 had been approved. Within hours, she was correcting that, saying she'd been misled by the ministry.

In fact, not one had been approved.

The cases are now being reviewed, Bloomfield tells us, by the ministry's lawyers. By the time they have made their decision, it's likely some, if not all, of them will have died alone.

That is unacceptable, just as it was unacceptable cancelling 30,000 elective surgeries, keeping hospitals free for the Covid-19 tsunami which, thankfully, hasn't eventuated. It's also been said 60,000 referrals to specialists by GPs have been put on hold, not to mention the more than 6000 scans that were said to be scheduled by hospitals but haven't taken place.

Hospitals are firing up under alert level 3 but they are being told to delay treating non-urgent surgeries for obese people or people over the age of 70 or those who have heart, lung or kidney disease. That's presumably to assist with clearing the backlog.

The result of all of this hardly needs to be contemplated. It will inevitably see more deaths here than Covid-19 would claim.

Having lost four family members over the years, for the state to prevent me from being with them, would not only have been unacceptable but unkind, heartless and inhumane.

New Zealand is surely better than this.