Which is more important?

Health Minister Andrew LIttle’s big fees are costing ICU beds:

The $1.4 million spent by Minister of Health Andrew Little on consultants working on his ill-conceived restructure of the health system over just two months could have paid for two new, fully-resourced ICU beds, says National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti.

“In July and August alone, Andrew Little paid Ernst & Young consultants enough money to add a new ICU bed for each month.

“The running tally of consultancy fees alone for the Minister’s vanity project so far now stands more than $7.2 million – a staggering figure when we consider the dire shortage of funding for ICU beds and other facilities vital to the Covid response.

There’s also a dire shortage of funding for other healths services in hospitals and the community, from ante-natal right through to end of life care.

“District health boards with low ICU capacity, such as Lakes, Tairāwhiti and Northland, would have a much greater safety net for the Covid response if they had just a few extra ICU beds.

“But, even now, it’s all a bit too late for a Minister who built no new ICU beds in Auckland in 15 months, failed to fast-track new nursing staff and brought in a pay freeze that actually drove ICU nurses to Australia.

“Andrew Little may argue the toss on the numbers but he can’t deny that he declined a request from Auckland DHB to use $6 million in leftover funding to build negative pressure rooms and then ended up building them in the middle of a pandemic.

“At the end of the day, Andrew Little’s consultants can’t put up a drip or run a ventilator, and that is what New Zealanders need right now.”

Prioritising funding for consultants rather than urgently needed ICU beds is even worse whenintensive care unit occupancy rates in district health board areas with large Māori populations were at capacity even before Covid and the current Delta outbreak.

Which is more important – consultants working on restructuring or health services which were over-stretched and under-resourced before Covid-19 hit?

If there is ever a good time to radically restructure a health system it’s not in the middle of a pandemic when the focus and the funds are so desperately needed on the front line of health services and the people who provide them.

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