Epidemiologists and politicians are telling us it’s when, not if, the Omicron variant of Covid-19 will spread through New Zealand.
Although some are saying that Omicron is more contagious but less serious than other variants, there are still serious concerns that health services will be over run.
The government has been telling us from before the first lockdown nearly two years ago, that the rationale for lockdowns and other restrictions on what we can do and how we can do it has been to ensure that health services aren’t put under too much pressure.
Given that, it ought to have been working very hard to ensure that health services and the professionals that provide them had everything they needed to cope with a surge in patients.
Instead, they’ve poured millions of dollars into restructuring the sector:
In 2018 the DHBs settled on a collective agreement for nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants with the complete implementation of a ‘Care Capacity Demand Management’ programme – a set of tools to ensure there are enough staff on shift.
. . . National’s Health spokesperson Shane Reti received confirmation from a written Parliamentary question that only one DHB had met the target by the deadline six months ago.
“Leading up to coronavirus there was very slow progress.
“This was specifically to reduce some of the risks around nursing staff being overworked in DHBs,” he said.
Just Northland DHB has 100 percent implemented Care Capacity Demand Management by the cut off – five were close at more than 90 percent.
The two worst DHBs were Canterbury at 49 percent and Waikato at just 34 percent.
In the response, the health minister’s office stated Canterbury and Waikato were late adopters of the CCDM programme.
The Waikato DHB’s roll-out was then further delayed by the cyber attack last year.
Reti said now is not the time for expensive reforms of the health sector.
“When the sector is already struggling for workforce, struggling to keep up with demand, even before whatever Omicron may bring towards us, this is a terrible time to be restructuring the sector,” he said. . .
Maternity is one of the areas under pressure, even without Covid-19:
The temporary closure of Queen Mary maternity services at Dunedin Hospital is further evidence of Andrew Little being prepared to sacrifice health services over bureaucracy for his precious health system restructuring, says National’s Health Spokesperson Dr Shane Reti.
“The Minister needs to explain ministerial answers showing $60M of maternity action plan funding being put aside for health system restructuring.
“That $60M was important for core maternity services not health system restructuring and would go a long way to address concerns around midwifery capacity and conditions.
“It’s no wonder the health system is burnt out after 5 years of a Labour Government yet some of this could have been recently avoided if the $500M and funding for 20 Ernst Young consultants in Wellington to empire build a restructured health system had instead been used to build ICU capacity and increase the health workforce.
Unfortunately Andrew Little is trying to use a Covid crisis to justify health restructuring over health services, form over function, and property over people. This has all been cruelly exposed at Queen Mary Maternity Hospital in Dunedin and midwifery at large who now join 100,000 delayed procedures and 30,000 people waiting more than 4 months to see a specialist as testament to Labour’s failing health system restructuring.”
DHBs are far from perfect but spending millions of dollars on creating a centralised system with a separate Maori organisation with veto powers over the whole organisation would be the wrong answer at the best of times.
Doing it during a pandemic when everyone involved ought to be concentrating on core services will solve none of the existing problems and create new ones.