From success to shags

14/05/2021

For a while there we were first, or nearly first in the world for our response to Covid-19.

That relatively relatively few people contracted the disease, relatively few died from it is cause for congratulations.

We were also going to be first in the queue for vaccines but the slow roll-out is putting us well down the success-list and there is a human and economic cost to that.

Dr Gorman said without widespread vaccination we remain “isolated”. 

“Yes there is an argument that vaccination has most application in countries with rampant disease, but there’s an equally strong argument we’re like a shag on a rock, and we’ll be a shag on a rock until we’re vaccinated, and our economy suffers. The next GFC, the next earthquake in Christchurch, we can’t buffer it.”

From success to shags because once more the government has shown it’s much better at announcing than delivering.


Only front of signing queue

12/05/2021

Remember being told we’d be at the front of the vaccine queue? Now we’re told that’s not what the government meant:

The Prime Minister’s comments today in Question Time that Chris Hipkins’ promise that New Zealand would be at the “front of the queue” for Covid-19 vaccines actually meant that we would be at the front of the queue in terms of signing contracts are baffling, says National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“Her assertion that ‘distribution is secondary’ demonstrates how woeful the Government’s vaccination programme is. Signing a contract does not protect Kiwis from Covid-19.”

Distribution is secondary?

Tell that to the people who can’t reunite with their families. Tell that to people whose businesses are compromised because they can’t travel or who live in fear of another lockdown. Tell that to people who fear for their health or that of their family and friends.

“When Chris Hipkins told New Zealanders that we were ‘at the front of the queue’ for Covid-19 vaccines, we rightly thought that meant New Zealand would quickly roll-out the Covid-19 vaccines.

Yet again the Prime Minister is moving the goalposts. Faced with a very slow roll-out where New Zealand is the 120th slowest in the world and the second slowest in the OECD, the Prime Minister’s new line is that ‘front of the queue’ just means speed of signing contracts.

Front of the queue for signing contracts? Why would that be cause for celebration? Does she really expect us to believe that?

“Why would the Government celebrate being first in line to sign a contract to ensure slow delivery, and consequential slow roll-out of vaccines? It beggars belief.

“The vaccine roll-out is a mess.”

We’ve received pamphlets in the mail, we’ve seen advertisements in the paper and we keep hearing them on the radio reassuring that the vaccine is safe and that we’ll get it.

What we’re not getting is when we’ll get it nor are we getting confidence in the roll-out. Playing word games trying to get us to believe that front of the queue doesn’t mean now what it meant a few months ago isn’t helping.

Mike Hosking asks, when will we start demanding better from the response?

. . . Vaccinated travellers all over the world are now starting to get on planes and fly and we as of now are missing out. . .

Our issue, according to our esteemed leader who told us a few weeks ago when we asked when the borders would be opening to vaccinated travellers, said that was an open question, which is code for she hasn’t thought about it. . . 

Any mountaineer knows getting to the top of the mountain is only half way.

Other countries who were well behind us in stopping the spread of the disease are already well down the mountain while we still don’t know the plan for the descent.

At some point a level of normality will have returned and places like Britain and the states are seeing their vaccination programmes as being comprehensive enough to be able to do that

Is it really possible the fear instilled in us by a government bereft of a plan beyond a closed border is really going to let the world get back to life and keep us locked up? . . 

As each day passes it becomes clearer where this story is heading. Vaccines work, the quicker you complete your programme, the more normal you can become, the world is clearly more than happy to drop restrictions lower borders and get life on a new track.

We sit here unvaccinated, borders closed, and no decision around what is next how and when.

It seems odd and increasingly criminal we can be recognised for a solid Covid response but because of our own fear and lack of planning cut ourselves out of the joining the rest of the world.

When do we start demanding better?

There’s no doubt the government was good at stopping Covid-19 causing the devastation it did in many other countries.

But repeated mistakes and repeated breaches at the border show that at least some of the success was due more to luck than management.

It will take a lot more good management than luck to make a success of the roll-out and trusting us with the truth, rather than trying to make us believe what was meant wasn’t what was said would be a good start.


Rural round-up

09/05/2021

McBride leads Fonterra with the heart – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra chair Peter McBride has jumped into the biggest job of his considerable co-operative governance life – changing the giant dairy processor’s capital structure to suit the times.

“The issues raised through this review need to be addressed early,” McBride said.

“We have a misalignment of investor profiles and we have to avoid a slippery slope towards corporatisation.

“Waiting for the problem to be at our feet will limit our options and likely increase the cost of addressing them, at the expense of future opportunities for us.” . . 

Meat collaboration benefits all – Hugh Stringleman:

Resilience and collaboration within the red meat industry underpinned the response to covid-19 and managing drought issues across much of the country, according to the latest Red Meat Report.

It is the second in a series by Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association, after the first was published last August.

Respective chief executives Sam McIvor and Sirma Karapeeva said collaboration had never been stronger and the recently renewed sector strategy was a strong platform to maximise the contribution to the New Zealand economy.

The report contains sections on the Red Meat Profit Partnership, Mycoplasma bovis, global trade worth $9.2 billion in 2020, free-trade agreements, the Taste Pure Nature origin brand, industry efforts in the environment, innovation and research and the 90,000-strong workforce. . . 

Rabbits: a seaside town over-run – Melanie Reid & Jill Herron:

A small South Island town is under siege from a plague of rabbits that has taken up residence over the entire area

The seaside village of Mōeraki in North Otago paints a pretty picture from a distance but up close, under the buildings, on the hills and along roadsides, things quickly get less attractive.

The place is infested with thousands of rabbits and residents are fighting a losing battle.

“They’re living under houses, they’re living under trailers, water tanks, boats, they’re literally everywhere. It’s ridiculous,” says local resident Ross Kean. . .

Champion of Cheese Awards 2021:

This year’s New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards has recognised long term favourites as well as newcomers among its 27 trophy recipients.

The four Supreme Champion awards went to Kāpiti and Mahoe, two highly awarded cheesemakers with a proud history; The Drunken Nanny with 11 years of cheesemaking, as well as Annie & Geoff Nieuwenhuis of Nieuwenhuis Farmstead Cheese who were named MilkTestNZ Champion Cheesemaker after only three years of commercial cheesemaking.

The trophies were awarded at a Gala Awards Dinner at SkyCity in Hamilton last night (Wednesday 05 May 2021) and followed judging of more than 310 cheeses from 35 cheese companies at Wintec in February. Chief Judge Jason Tarrant led a panel of 32 judges to assess the cheeses. . . 

2021 Peter Snow Memorial Award Goes To Kerikeri GP:

Kerikeri GP Dr Grahame Jelley has been announced as the 2021 recipient of the Peter Snow Memorial Award.

The award was announced at the National Rural Health Conference at Wairakei Resort in Taupō on Friday 30 April 2021.

The Peter Snow Memorial Award honours Dr Peter Snow and his contribution to rural communities as well as recognising an individual for their outstanding contribution to rural health either in service, innovation or health research.

Grahame, currently a GP in Kerikeri, was nominated for his service as a rural General Practitioner and his dedication to rural health for more than 30 years. . .

Stunning high-country grazing farm with multiple recreational benefits placed on the market for sale:

One of the most picturesque livestock farms in the South Island – with landscape for hosting a plethora of recreational activities and stunning views in conjunction with a sheep and beef grazing operation – has been placed on the market for sale.

The Larches – located at the entrance to the Cardrona Valley some seven kilometres south-west of Wanaka in Central Otago – is a 976-hectare farm spread over a mix of irrigated Cardrona River flats, along with lower north/north-west facing terraces and rocky outcrop hills climbing up to the skyline of the Pisa Range.

The Larches currently runs half-bred sheep and Angus-cross cattle. Located at 446 Cardrona Valley Road on the outskirts of Wanaka leading into the Crown Range, The Larches freehold farm is now on the market for sale by deadline treaty through Bayleys Wanaka, with offers closing on June 4, 2021. . .


Saturday soapbox

08/05/2021

Saturday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, amuse, bemuse or simply muse but not to abuse.

For every fight won, for each battle lost, for those still fighting, I proudly wear teal.

Today is World Ovarian Cancer Day.

 

 


School buses need seatbelts

29/04/2021

Phillipa Cameron is driving many extra kilometres to keep her children safe:

Philippa Cameron will continue driving a 64km round trip to Kurow twice a day until she can be assured her young daughters will be safely belted in on their school bus ride.

The Otematata mother, who has more than 16,900 followers on her Instagram page What’s for Smoko, has launched a petition to get seatbelts on school buses and has managed to collect about 3000 signatures so far.

The issue made its way on to Mrs Cameron’s radar about a year ago, when her eldest daughter Flora was about to turn 5.

“I was that new mum who was looking at how my daughter was going to get to school,” she said.

It was unacceptable to Mrs Cameron that her small child, who was legally required to be in a carseat when travelling by car, could climb on to a school bus and travel along country roads at high speeds, without any type of restraint.

It is risky enough in town at speeds up to 50kph, it’s much more dangerous on country roads and highways at much higher speeds.

She was not the only mother concerned about the issue, but she was one of the lucky ones who had the time to drive her children to their Kurow School, from Otematata Station, where her and husband Joe live.

“Then you’ve got the mothers who are in a position that they can’t take their children. And then they’ve got this terrible mum guilt, you know.

“They have to put their kids on the bus and put their faith and trust in a driver, who gets to have a seatbelt, by the way.

“I feel their pain, because I understand why they have to put their children on the bus.”

In August last year, then Minister of Transport Phil Twyford had told her there was no change in sight for the laws, Mrs Cameron said.

Now new Transport Minister Michael Wood was saying the same thing, citing cost as the biggest hurdle. . . 

What cost do you put on a child’s safety?

Given the law that puts so much responsibility on a person operating a business or enterprise to ensure all workers and customers are safe, how can it be legal to not have seatbelts on school buses – or any bus, come to that?

The petition has the support of Rural Women and Federated Farmers:

Federated Farmers transport and health & safety spokesperson Karen Williams is asking rural residents to sign a petition calling for a law change requiring seat belts in school buses. . . 

Karen also believes the current situation is unacceptable.

“When our children are babies we invest in baby capsules, then car seats with 5 point harnesses, both rear facing and then forward facing as the baby’s neck gets stronger, and then lastly booster seats until they are tall enough to safely fit in the seat belt.”   

“But when they turn five and get on a school bus, suddenly having a restraint doesn’t matter?  

“School bus routes can include narrow, windy gravel roads, often busy with heavy trucks.  The bus driver will be secured in a seatbelt, but one row back there’s nothing to buckle in the child passenger,” Karen said.

Radio NZ reported that two children were seriously injured and six others suffered minor injuries after a school bus crashed near Murchison last month.   A week earlier four school students were injured after two buses crashed in Christchurch.  In 2018, St John urged the government to make wearing seatbelts compulsory on some bus services after two people died and many others were injured in a spate of accidents. . . 

The petition closes tomorrow.

You can sign it here.

 

 


Something missing

28/04/2021

A full page advertisement in yesterday’s Otago Daily Times told me how important the Covid-19 vaccine is.

I already knew that.

What I didn’t know was when any of us will be getting the vaccine and I still don’t. The advertisement was silent on that.

It also didn’t mention that rather than being at the front of the queue as was promised last year, New Zealand is well down the rankings of doses administered.

1
United States
215 950 000 11
Italy
16 270 000 21
Bangladesh
7 420 000
2
China
204 190 000 12
Mexico
15 000 000 22
Argentina
6 550 000
3
India
129 650 000 13
Chile
13.54 million 23
Hungary
4 870 000
4
United Kingdom
43 920 000 14
Spain
13 500 000 24
Netherlands
4 580 000
5
Brazil
34 060 000 15
Canada
10 800 000 25
Romania
4 490 000
6
Germany
23 660 000 16
Israel
10 370 000 26
Colombia
3 980 000
7
Turkey
20 480 000 17
United Arab Emirates
9 900 000 27
Belgium
3 200 000
8
France
17 870 000 18
Poland
9 500 000 28
Serbia
3 140 000
9
Indonesia
17 640 000 19
Morocco
8 900 000 29
Portugal
2 780 000
10
Russia
16 820 000 20
Saudi Arabia
7 610 000 30
Greece
2 650 000

 

Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses *
31
Czechia
2 650 000 41
Nepal
1 700 000 51
Peru
1 310 000
32
Sweden
2 640 000 42
Denmark
1 660 000 52
Ireland
1 240 000
33
Austria
2 620 000 43
Philippines
1 610 000 53
Malaysia
1 210 000
34
Japan
2 350 000 44
Finland
1 570 000 54
Hong Kong
1 170 000
35
Wales
2 330 000 45
Dominican Republic
1 510 000 55
Bahrain
1 140 000
36
Singapore
2 210 000 46
Uruguay
1 480 000 56
Nigeria
1 130 000
37
Switzerland
2 090 000 47
Norway
1 390 000 57
Myanmar
1.040000
38
South Korea
1 960 000 48
Slovakia
1 370 000 58
Sri Lanka
925 242
39
Cambodia
1 780 000 49
Azerbaijan
1 370 000 59
Kazakhstan
893 164
40
Australia
1 720 000 50
Qatar
1 320 000 60
Ghana
842 521

 

Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses *
61
Lithuania
822 085 71
Kuwait
604 861 81
Albania
372 075
62
Pakistan
800 000 72
Ecuador
601 229 82
Lebanon
365 83
63
Croatia
726 315 73
Bolivia
577 211 83
Rwanda
349 702
64
Costa Rica
698 327 74
Panama
574 212 84
Maldives
342 379
65
Bulgaria
676 501 75
Slovenia
543 708 85
Uzbekistan
335 610
66
Thailand
666 21 76
Ukraine
491 88 86
Zimbabwe
332 996
67
Jordan
665 226 77
Bhutan
479 333 87
Tunisia
300 369
68
Kenya
651 65 78
Ethiopia
430 000 88
South Africa
292 623
69
Mongolia
637 415 79
Senegal
380 665 89
Malta
288 797
70
Iran
621 822 80
Estonia
376 276 90
Malawi
263 931

 

Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses * Rank Country Doses *
91 Venezuela 250 000 101
Luxembourg
166 724 111
Vietnam
108 897
92 Uganda 245 939 102
Egypt
164 534 112
Northern Cyprus
107 365
93 Angola 245 442 103
Guatemala
160 37 113
Iceland
100 168
94 Latvia 230 848 104
Togo
160 000 114
Sudan
100 01
95 Cyprus 219 654 105
Laos
137 026 115
Moldova
99 639
96 Oman 217 582 106
Jamaica
135 473 116
Cote d’Ivoire
94 818
97 El Salvador 200 000 107
Afghanistan
120 000 117
Paraguay
93 111
98 Iraq 197 914 108
Mauritius
117 323 118
Macao
86 653
99 Palestine 192 315 109
Seychelles
116 957 119
Algeria
75 000
100
New Zealand
183 351 110
Guinea
116 113 120
Guyana
73 600

 

Being down at 100 might not matter so much if we could have confidence that the vaccination roll-out was going as planned, but how can we when we don’t know what the plan is?

We know that border staff and essential workers come first, people aged 65 and older will come next and then the rest of us. Vaccination of the first group is under way but there hasn’t been a word about when those in the next two groups can expect to be immunised.

Does it matter?

Yes, because as the advertisement said:

Our immunity against Covid-10 is incredibly important. Because it brings more possibilities for us all.

Possibilities like keeping our way of life intact; our kids being able to learn without worrying about interruptions; or being able to plan gatherings with whanau, or team trips away, without fear of them being cancelled.

Immunity can bring us all this, as well as more certainty is our jobs, and more confidence in our businesses. With the strength of an immune system made up of all of us, together we can, and will, create more freedom, more options, and more possibilities for everyone. . . 

I have no argument about any of that. But something very important is missing from the advertisement.

Why, if the government is making such an effort to convince us of the importance and benefits of being vaccinated, won’t they tell us when we will be?


From the Covid-19 coalface

26/04/2021

The  New Zealand government was late and lax in its response to Covid-19, shortcomings in MIQ facilities has let the disease through the border too many times and there are still too many unanswered questions about when and how most of us will be vaccinated.

That said, the number of people who contracted the disease and number of deaths was relatively low and, closed border aside, life is back to as close to normal as it could be for most of us with a freedom to move and congregate that few other countries can enjoy.

This has led some people to question how serious Covid-19 is.

The BBC’s stories from doctors and nurses at St George’s Hospital tell just how bad it can be.

From nurses talking about crying when they get home to doctors asking people to stop “bending” the rules because it’s leading to people in their 20s, 30s and 40s dying, these are the staff of St George’s Hospital.

The interviews in the video from the Covid-19 healthcare coalface give first-hand answers to the question of how bad the spread could be.

Anyone who still thinks the disease isn’t serious need only look at the rapid spread and high number of deaths in India,  Brazil, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea which are now on the list of very high risk countries from which travellers can no longer enter New Zealand.

Some have called this racist.

It’s not. The decision had nothing at all to do with race, it is simply and clearly based on the spread of Covid-19 in those countries and the risk travellers from those countries would pose if they came here.


Marching on meth

25/04/2021

Armies are said to march on their stomachs, but in World War II armies marched on methamphetamine:

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote that speed is “the essence of war.” While he of course did not have amphetamines in mind, he would no doubt have been impressed by their powerful war-facilitating psychoactive effects. Amphetamines—often called “pep pills,” “go pills,” “uppers” or “speed”—are a group of synthetic drugs that stimulate the central nervous system, reducing fatigue and appetite and increasing wakefulness and a sense of well-being. The quintessential drug of the modern industrial age, amphetamines arrived relatively late in the history of mind-altering substances—commercialized just in time for mass consumption during World War II by the leading industrial powers. That war was not only the most destructive war in human history but also the most pharmacologically enhanced. It was literally sped up by speed. . . 

Japanese, American and British forces consumed large amounts of amphetamines, but the Germans were the most enthusiastic early adopters, pioneering pill-popping on the battlefield during the initial phases of the war. . . 

While other drugs were banned or discouraged, methamphetamine was touted as a miracle product when it appeared on the market in the late 1930s. Indeed, the little pill was the perfect Nazi drug: “Germany, awake!” the Nazis had commanded. Energizing and confidence boosting, methamphetamine played into the Third Reich’s obsession with physical and mental superiority. In sharp contrast to drugs such as heroin or alcohol, methamphetamines were not about escapist pleasure. Rather, they were taken for hyper-alertness and vigilance. Aryans, who were the embodiment of human perfection in Nazi ideology, could now even aspire to be superhuman—and such superhumans could be turned into supersoldiers. “We don’t need weak people,” Hitler declared, “we want only the strong!” Weak people took drugs such as opium to escape; strong people took methamphetamine to feel even stronger. . .

Amid growing worries about the addictive potential and negative side effects of overusing the drug, the German military began to cut back on allocations of methamphetamines by the end of 1940. Consumption declined sharply in 1941 and 1942, when the medical establishment formally acknowledged that amphetamines were addictive.

Nevertheless, the drug continued to be dispensed on both the western and eastern fronts. Temmler-Wenke, the maker of the drug, remained as profitable as ever, despite rising awareness of the negative health effects.

Could this be why the German army did so well in the early stages of WWII, but ran out of steam later on?


Wrong prescription for ailing health system

22/04/2021

The health system is sick and has been ailing for a long time.

My contact with it started with my children from the mid 1980s until the mid 1990s,  then my elderly parents needed help from the late 90s to early 2000s and  in recent years I’ve seen too much of it because my daughter has cancer.

Almost all the health professionals treating my children and parents have been dedicated, skilled and better than competent but more than three decades ago they were overworked and that has got worse.

While I have generally been appreciative of the people working in health, I have got more and more concerned about problems with the system in which they’re working.

The government has come up with a radical prescription to treat the system’s ills includes disbanding the District Health Boards.

Electing some board members for DHBs was always Clayton’s democracy.  Elections are not the best way to get the skills needed to run complex health organisations. They were answerable to the Minister, not electors, but the system allowed the government to blame DHBs for shortcomings and the shortcomings were many.

So I am not sorry to see the DHBs go but I am not confident that centralisation under the new National Health Authority is the answer, especially for those of us who live a long way from main centres.

And I am strongly opposed to two health authorities – one Maori, the other not in co-governance with the Maori authority having veto over all national health plans.

National’s health spokesman Dr Shane Reti points out:

. . . “National believes whoever has the greatest needs should receive the appropriate resources. We know Māori have the greatest inequity across health, and therefore greater needs across many health metrics.

“But we do not support a separate Māori Health Authority as it runs the risk of a fragmented two-tier system. On one hand Health Minister Andrew Little claims he’s trying to create a single, harmonious, joined-up health system and on the other he’s creating a two-tiered funding system based on race. . .

This is the wrong prescription for the ailing health system.

Maori and Pacific people are disproportionately represented in poorer health statistics but the focus for improving that should be at the primary health care and community level. It doesn’t need a whole new, expensive bureaucracy.

The government must also recognise that the health system is just one piece in the health and wellbeing puzzle. If it’s not to continue getting worse, the government must address the causes of preventable ill-health including benefit dependency, educational failure and inadequate housing.

 


Still not kind enough

20/04/2021

The government is giving some long overdue relief to migrant families who have been separated for more than a year:

National is pleased a solution has finally been found for some of the migrants split from their families after the Government forced them to endure more than a year of distress and uncertainty, National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says.

“News that many migrants, including our critical nurses and health workers, will finally get to hug their children and partners will be an enormous relief to them.

“New Zealand is critically short of nurses and is undertaking the biggest vaccination programme in living memory, so it’s reassuring that migrant nurses caught by a policy anomaly can now stay here and be reunited with their families.

“We can’t afford to lose the highly-skilled migrants who fill gaps in our workforce that we can’t otherwise fill. They are our doctors, our engineers, our tech experts, and our children’s mathematics teachers – we desperately need them in this country.

We need them and they need their families.

“While National welcomes today’s announcement, which is clearly the right thing to do, it is a shame the Government only acted after intense and sustained pressure from the Opposition, the media and split migrant family advocates.

“It should not have taken nurses shedding tears on the 6pm news night after night, having been separated from their babies, for the Government to act after it ignored them for months.

“Today’s move is a good start, but there is more to do. This decision won’t cover many families whose visas were being processed but had not yet been approved.

“Families still left in limbo will be deeply disappointed the Immigration Minister did not give them a roadmap to reunification.

“This overdue announcement, coming after months of pressure, shows the Labour Government does not have a clear plan for our immigration settings.

“National will continue to closely scrutinise the Government’s immigration and border response, and will continue to be the party that values and speaks up for our migrants.” 

The government is acting on its be-kind mantra, albeit belatedly, but it is not yet being kind enough.

Too many families won’t qualify for this and there are a lot of businesses desperate for workers who still can’t get them through the border.

Fruit is rotting on the ground in Hawke’s Bay amid a massive worker shortage and orchardists warn that overworked pickers are suffering more accidents.

The official labour shortage first declared for Hawke’s Bay six weeks ago – with 192 tourists granted approval to work in orchards – expired on Friday.

It was immediately extended, but growers say it’s too little too late.

Phil Paynter from Johnny Appleseed Holdings had to say goodbye to 22 hard-working pickers last week and says that with a little more warning, he could have kept them.

“When the labour shortage expired last Friday, we laid off 22 staff,” he said. “There simply aren’t the tourist numbers by the time you get into April to find those people [again].” . . 

Fruit growers further south are facing the same problem:

Central Otago’s horticulture sector fears fruit may be left to rot if a labour shortage isn’t filled soon.

The region is suffering from a lack of the usual seasonal workers from the Pacific because of Covid-19 border restrictions.

Many locals who filled in for the summer fruit harvest have left for university or jobs elsewhere.

With the borders creaking open with the announcement of the trans-Tasman bubble last week, horticulturists are calling for a Pacific bubble to follow.

Wine grower James Dicey said this year’s vintage would be an expensive one.

“We’ve scrapped through by the skin of our teeth,” he said, of the difficulty of finding workers to pick grapes.

“It’s going to cost us a lot more – not only the minimum wage increase, but the loss of productivity we’ve had has been a double bite. I’ve had to put extra vans on, find accommodation for staff, go to a huge extra level just to make sure we are able to secure the people we need.”

Orchards and vineyards would pay the cost of getting foreign workers into MIQ, if that was an option, but the risk was so low from the Pacific workers should just be let in, Dicey said. 

The five main countries which supplied seasonal workers – known as RSE – had few or no cases of Covid. . . 

It’s not just added stress and loss income for the businesses, less fruit and vegetables picked means less to sell. That will result in less export income for the country and higher prices for households here.

The government needs to reassess its priorities when the cast and crew of The Lion King have been allowed in but the workers needed to pick fruit and vegetables aren’t.

Its current policy is not nearly kind enough.


Daylight discharges optimal for all ages

19/04/2021

This shouldn’t be happening in the first world:

The Government needs to explain why it’s allowing DHBs to discharge our elderly people from hospital in the middle of the night, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

In January alone, 156 patients aged 80 years and older were discharged from hospital between 1am and 8am in the morning. Every DHB discharged at least one elderly person during this time, with Waitematā DHB discharging an outstanding 23 people.

Dr Reti says this is an unacceptable practice.

“While there may be some people who are self-discharging to other facilities, there is nothing safe about discharging people over 80 in the very early morning.

“Transitions of care between hospital and the community are often complex and fraught with danger but especially so for older people where we know confusion can be increased at night, especially if social networks aren’t active and they are in an unfamiliar environment.

“It’s clear there are some management issues surrounding discharge delays and bed planning with some people bumped out to free up beds.

“These figures don’t include the number of elderly patients who present at an Emergency Department between these hours and are then sent away so there could be even more people impacted.

“I was made aware of a situation in my electorate where a family was horrified their kuia who went to ED at 1am was then sent home a couple of hours later to a community that was not prepared.

“Our elderly community deserves better support and care than this.

“I can’t think of one good reason to be discharging a person over 80 from hospital in the early morning.

“The Government needs to urgently explain the circumstances around these figures and reassure our elderly community that they won’t be left out in the cold in the middle of the night to free up a bed for someone else.”

Discharging anyone in the middle of the night or early morning isn’t optimal, it’s even less so for elderly people.

This is one of many signs that DHBs are under unacceptable pressure on staff, beds and funding.

A table with the data of discharges of people over 80 between 1am and 7:59am is here.


Who’s responsible?

16/04/2021

The government told us they went hard and early.

They didn’t. They were lax and late and then harsh.

Lax because they trusted people to self-isolate when they came in from overseas; late in closing the border and requiring managed isolation and quarantine; and then harsh in the arbitrary definition of essential rather than safe for determining which businesses could open during lockdown levels four and three.

The government and the Ministry of Health (MoH) told us there was enough PPE.

There wasn’t.

The government and the MoH told us there was enough ‘flu vaccine.

There wasn’t.

The government and the MoH assured us that MIQ staff were being tested regularly.

Time and time again we’ve found they were not.

The government and the MoH told us we’d be at the front of the queue for vaccinations.

We’re not.

The government and the MoH have given us a variety of numbers for border staff and the percentage who are vaccinated.

We can’t know which, if any, can be relied on.

The government and MoH told us to only believe what came from the podium of truth.

Too often the media and opposition have showed us facts that contradict those utterances.

The government and MoH ought to have systems that keep Covid-19 at the border.

The debacles this week show that the systems are full of holes.

As Duncan Grieve writes, a system that can be hacked by lying isn’t a good system:

Whether or not the worker who has been infected lied, is disputed. What isn’t disputed is that the system wouldn’t have picked up lies.

Which is why we’re in this situation – the company designed and the ministry accepted a system which could be broken by the simple act of lying. Which is not a system at all – it’s a code, a wish, a vibe. . . 

Any system which relies on individual honesty is inevitably going to break, and duty of care as an employer should not allow frontline workers to be put in this position. 

So it seems fair to ask what would be the bigger lie: an individual signing a false declaration about testing. Or the New Zealand public being told that testing was already mandatory and occurring.

Who’s responsible for the system and the failures?

Who’s been telling us, time and time again, that testing was both mandatory and occurring?

Who’s shown themselves incapable of learning from repeated mistakes and shortcomings?

The government and the MoH.


Abject incompetence

14/04/2021

The NZ Herald opines that unvaccinated border staff are our Achilles heel:

The red-letter issue in the Millennium Hotel chain of cases, however, is the lack of vaccination and testing which was exposed. Despite working in a managed isolation and quarantine facility, neither Case B nor C had been vaccinated.

Today’s Health Select Committee has discovered another vulnerability:

A security worker at Auckland’s Grand Millennium managed isolation facility, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, had not been previously tested since November.

Carolyn Tremain, chief executive of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) – which oversees managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) – made the revelation on Wednesday at a parliamentary committee.

Tremain said the worker was tested on April 7, which is when he tested positive for COVID-19. Prior to that, she said records show he was last tested in November, despite the law stating he should be tested fortnightly.

Fortnightly? why not saliva tests every day?

“What we have identified through the case investigation process… is that there are some inconsistencies in the recording of when testing occurs,” Tremain told the Health Select Committee.

“We don’t have evidence that testing has been conducted from our systems on the frequency that we would prefer it to be.” . . 

Prefer it to be?

That’s as weak as Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield saying he would have hoped the latest case would have been vaccinated by now.

Preferred and hoped are simply not good enough when the consequences of workers contracting Covid-19 are so bad not just for their own health but for the risk of community transmission with all the health, social and economic costs that come from that.

What makes this worse is the game-playing by Labour MPs in the Select Committee:

. . .But the committee hearing – a key opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of officials – soon descended into a squabble between Labour MPs and National Party Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop, as his attempts to question officials on the shortcomings were railroaded by the Labour MPs interested in more anodyne matters. . . 

Despite the pressing issues, the health select committee, steered by Invercargill-based Labour list MP Dr Liz Craig, instead asked the officials to talk about the “basic science” behind how the managed isolation system had been set up.

For more 20 minutes during the opening of the session, Bloomfield canvassed the increased understanding that “airborne transmission” of the virus was a risk, and what was known about the spread of the more infectious B117 Covid-19 variant in India.

MBIE deputy chief executive Megan Main detailed the “customer journey” that returnees have, from learning about the MIQ system, to entering a hotel and subsequently leaving.

“That’s really, really useful,” Craig said, offering up a few more minutes for the speakers to talk about this widely accessible information. 

Bishop’s attempts to ask questions were frustrated by Labour MPs on the committee. A one stage, he was visibly frustrated, holding his head in his hands. . . 

“Government MPs need to reflect very seriously on the way in which they are treating the Opposition on select committees and shielding officials from scrutiny,” Bishop told reporters afterwards.

He said it was “quite staggering” that the security guard had not been tested for six months. 

And if that wasn’t bad enough it got worse:

How hard is it to keep a record of who the workers are, who’s been tested, when they’re tested and which ones are vaccinated?

This is basic record keeping. That it’s not happening shows the system needs far more checks and balances than preferences and hopes.

That workers aren’t tested as they ought to be and that not all are vaccinated yet is bad enough. That records are so poor no-one knows who is tested and vaccinated is abject incompetence.

This information came out in spite of attempts to silence the Opposition. I wonder if there was anything else that we need to know that would have come out had the Labour MPs not been playing silly games?


If you don’t know…

12/04/2021

How do these headlines make you feel?

Authorities unable to say how many border workers unvaccinated

Government doesn’t know how many border workers there are, but still insists 90 percent have got COVID-19 vaccine

How can they know that 90% are vaccinated if they don’t know how many there are?

That’s not all they don’t know – they also don’t know how many border workers are being swabbed.

They’ll have to find out because, belatedly, just over a year since managed isolation and quarantine became compulsory for everyone coming in to the country, and they’re only just going to make the testing register mandatory:

Government to make testing register mandatory after admitting it doesn’t know how many border workers are being swabbed

Health authorities have made a sudden change to a policy about high-risk border workers after Newshub asked questions about the Ministry of Health’s testing processes.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed to Newshub on Friday he intends to make reporting to the Government’s testing register mandatory for all border employees amid revelations it wasn’t known how many of them had been swabbed.

“All relevant employers have had a specific duty to keep records of testing since last year,” Hipkins said.

“However, last month, to make the system clearer and easier to administer, I signalled my intention to make reporting to the register mandatory for all relevant employers at the border.

“Ministry officials have been engaging with the border sector on the plan, and I expect to be in position to make a decision and any amendments to the order shortly.” . . 

Does signalled my intention  and expect to be in a position to make a decision and any amendments to the order shortly  give you any sense of urgency?

Does this make you feel any better?

The Government set up what’s called a Border Workforce Testing Register, to track testing of workers, but it’s a voluntary system. Around 12,000 workers are using it, but another 4000 are not.

Voluntary? How can something as important as this be voluntary?

There are calls to see the optional register be made compulsory. 

“This is a conversation we should have been having a year ago, and it should have lasted 30 seconds,” Prof Gorman said.

“The border is so important – this is a requirement, there are no exceptions.”

The Prime Minister has a warning to workers who aren’t being regularly tested. 

“There is a penalty regime for employers who are not doing that.”

The problem is, the Government doesn’t know with a high degree of accuracy who’s following the rules and who isn’t – so no penalties have been dished out.

Does no-one in any position of authority have any idea of logistics?

Can no-one in any position of authority learn from repeated shortcomings and mistakes?

How many times do journalists have to expose the chasms between what ought to be happening, what the government and Ministry of Health tell us is happening and what is actually happening?

What else don’t they know? And if they don’t know, how can we have any confidence that what ought to be happening is happening?


Does this give you confidence?

08/04/2021

The ODT reports that setting up the southern Covid-19 vaccination system has taken staff away from other immunisation programmes and is using people who might otherwise be contact-tracing.

Covid-19 vaccination centres in Dunedin’s Meridian Mall and in Invercargill began injecting frontline health workers last week, and have also been delivering second doses of the vaccine to port workers.

Public Health nursing and immunisation vaccinators and administration staff were doing much of the work at present, southern vaccine rollout incident controller Hamish Brown said.

This was affecting the Southern District Health Board’s MMR vaccination catch-up campaign, B4 schools check, HPV vaccinations and other school-based programmes.

“This is also using staff who would also support contact-tracing work for Covid-19 cases.” . . 

Does this give you confidence that any of these programmes are being, or will be, done well?

“There have been a few teething problems, as you can imagine with an operation of this scale, but our teams have been able to resolve issues as they have cropped up, and on the whole the clinics have run very smoothly,” Mr Brown said.

However, in a report to be considered by the Southern District Health Board on Thursday, Mr Brown said a national Covid-19 vaccination booking system was at least a month away and southern health officials were relying on electronic diary Outlook calendar in the interim.

“There is currently no robust booking system in place, and the existing hospital booking system does not meet the requirements for the programme.

“An interim booking system…has been put in place to manage the immediate need to book in household contacts for the next few weeks.”

Southern and other DHBs had worked together to find a suitable booking system and discussions were ongoing with a possible provider, Mr Brown said. . . 

We were told months ago that we’d be at the front of the queue for Covid-19 vaccinations. We aren’t, and that has given more time to get the logistics sorted so that the programme runs smoothly.

If there are all these problems this early, when a relatively small number of people are being vaccinated, how confident can we be that they will be solved when mass vaccination is under way, and that other programmes, including annual ‘flu vaccinations, won’t be compromised?

Chris McDowall’s report on the Ministry of Health’s opaque and messy handling of public health data on Covid-19 vaccination progress.

. . .  Without published statistics, media briefings are our only source of truth about how the rollout is progressing.

Slip-ups and an absence of detail detract from public confidence, potentially creating space for anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theories.

We will continue to request data about the vaccine rollout from the Government and follow up outstanding questions. We hope the Government will start making this data freely available.

And then there’s this:

Not only is New Zealand second bottom in the OECD for the number of Covid-19 vaccinations but in information leaked to National we are nowhere near where the Government planned for us to be back in January, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Leaked data shows that at this point in the vaccine roll out, a cumulative total of 390,413 vaccine should have been administered, but only 90,286 have been so far, a pathetic 23 per cent.

“After promising New Zealanders we were at the front of the queue for Covid-19 vaccines, nearly every other country in the OECD is now ahead of us, with just Japan behind New Zealand.

“We aren’t at the front of the queue – we are at the back.”

As of yesterday, New Zealand has administered just 1.9 doses per 100 people in our population.

The countries ahead of us include Australia (3.31 per 100 people), Singapore (25.95), the United Kingdom (54.52) and the United States (50).

“Australia has recently been criticised for the slow pace of its vaccine roll out, but New Zealand is even worse and there’s no sign we’re picking up the pace,” Mr Bishop says.

“National is deeply concerned about the vaccine roll out.

“Three of the four necessary IT systems for our roll out aren’t ready, DHBs are contracting their own booking system solutions with disastrous results, the Government refuses to set a target for the percentage of the population to be vaccinated, and we’re still unclear who will be vaccinated when.

“The Government hasn’t even begun a proper communications campaign to educate New Zealanders about the vaccine. New Zealand’s economic and social future is relying on a successful vaccine roll.

“The public should have daily access to how we are progressing in our Covid vaccine roll out, they shouldn’t have to rely on leaked information to Opposition parties.

“As more countries vaccinate their populations New Zealand risks being left behind. They will start opening up trade and travel to each other while we, a country where our prosperity depends on international connections, will lag behind.

“The elimination of Covid-19 in New Zealand should have been an opportunity for us to recover more quickly than the rest of the world. We are at risk of wasting this through a slow and ineffective roll out.”

The government, ministry and DHBs need to urgently improve the logistics of the vaccine roll out, and data releases, to ensure we can all have confidence in what’s being done, that it will be done well, and to provide no space for anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists.


Why were we waiting?

07/04/2021

At last we will be able to cross back and forwards across the Tasman without the need to quarantine from April 19th.

Why has it taken so long?

. . . On Tuesday Jacinda Ardern announced the Director-General of Health, Doctor Ashley Bloomfield, deemed the risk of transmission of Covid-19 from Australia to New Zealand is “low and that quarantine-free travel is safe to commence’’.

But on further inquiry from Newsroom, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed he’d been in regular discussions with Bloomfield for six months and the health boss’ “assessment that Australia’s a low-risk country has been consistent for some time’’.

The hold-up was Bloomfield’s advice that “the systems have not been in place to allow for safe green zone travel both ways between both countries’’.

The systems officials have been working on have been focused on airports and how travellers make the trip from one end to the other safely, keeping bubble travellers separate from other incoming flights that may have Covid-positive passengers, and the contact tracing and processes for opening, pausing and in some cases closing the bubble if there were an outbreak in either country.

Talk to airports and they’ll tell you they’ve had their systems ready to go since August last year when health officials gave the all-clear to Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington.

The only advice the Ministry of Health has come back to airports with since then is extra cleaning when the bubble opens up, and other routine measures.

In the case of Wellington Airport, no managed isolation and quarantine flights land directly in the capital from overseas countries, so mitigating risks around mixing up trans-Tasman passengers with those potentially exposed overseas is and always has been non-existent.

And despite the political pressure ramping up from both National and ACT, the Government has been happy to continue with the go-slow citing a “cautious’’ approach in the name of public health and safety.

The reality is other than tourism operators and those whose businesses are directly impacted by tourist arrivals, most other New Zealanders accept it’s worth taking the time to get it right. . . 

In other words the government didn’t want to risk any political capital, preferring to pander to the fearful rather than promoting the low risk of opening a Trans-Tasman bubble.

It put polls before people – the ones separated from family and friends, the ones who couldn’t get to visit ill relatives before they died, the ones who couldn’t go to funerals, the ones who missed celebrations.

And it played on the pandemic paranoia for political gain with no heed for the financial and emotional stress tourism businesses, their owners and staff are under nor for the economic cost to the country of the needless delay.


Get checked

06/04/2021

Cabinet Minister Kirk Allan writes of her cervical cancer diagnosis:

Last week I was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer – so now the fight of my life begins.

My last smear test I had was when Talei Morrison, just prior to her passing from cervical cancer, rallied her whānau, her friends, the kapa haka community and ultimately NZ to campaign for women, and particularly Māori women to get their smear tests done regularly.

To be honest, I’m one of those gals that hates anything to do with ‘down there’. And have taken a ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ type approach to that part of my body. Talei’s call to wāhine and whānau to get tested was the push I needed to get it done.

Time passes. Work piles on. Going to the doctor for anything other then an emergency goes way down the priority list.

Last year, during the campaign I noticed I was getting a lot of pain in my back, stomach and legs. I put it down to lots of driving, working long hours and the general stress of campaigns etc – so, I got my partner to give me a few mirimiri and forgot about it.

Earlier this year, I realised I was finding it hard to sit for a lengthy period of time. Always in a bit of pain. I started running to try and move the lower back area a little bit. Nothing seemed to take the pain away.

In late January I started menstruating and it didn’t stop. In hindsight, there were lots of opportunities to go touch base with a doctor. But I didn’t. I put it down to work, and was on the go, and “that stuff usually sorts itself out”.

After I had been menstruating for about 4 weeks, I went for a quick check up at the GP. She had a good look at me and tried me on some medication.

At about 6 weeks of menstruating with no change since the GP visit, I raised it with my colleague and friend, Ayesha Verrall who is a doctor, asking if the bleeding was a little odd. She asked a few more questions and I told her about the pain. She urged me, pleaded with me, “Kiri, please, please, please prioritise this and go to the doctor tomorrow.”

She made some recommendations and the next day I found myself having an ultra sound. The ultra sound found a 3 cm growth, probably benign. But the doctor made arrangements for me to go to the hospital the following day at the Women’s Clinic.

That day also happened to be the day of the tsunamis and earthquakes. I found myself managing the earthquakes early morning, then headed the hospital for another ultra sound at about 8am (just before the large evacuation notice – poor timing!).

This was a longer ultra scan then the previous day and they took a number of smears and biopsies as well. They found the growth was approx 6 cm but likely benign. We had a chat about options for removal. By and large, things seemed ok and I could get back to work that day. So I arrived back just in time for the 11.30 am stand up at the beehive.

The following week I got a call saying the smears had shown an abnormal result and I needed to come in again for a colposcopy. It sounded ok, my cousin had had one and it was just a precautionary thing I thought. I told my family and they called the Dr to ask a few questions. She was amazing and took my family’s call to explain the process (THANK YOU SO MUCH!).

Some days later, I went in for the procedure. When we arrived, I was received from reception by Robyn, a bubbly nurse who knew the East Coast well. She kept reassuring me before the appointment that she could be contacted anytime for any questions and gave me a cell phone number to call. She took us to the room where a kind Dr was waiting – and wanted to talk through the procedure. She seemed very kind and patient, but the vibe of the consultation felt more serious then the rest.

Fortunately, by this stage of testing I had formed a solid crew of folks to help me navigate the meetings and to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Mani, my partner, who came to appointments with me and asked all the follow up questions my mind couldn’t turn to. Natalie, my best mate and baby’s mum would be our first call before and after the appointments to make sure we hadn’t missed anything. Mum and Dad, being staunch advocates for well-being, they provided spiritual support. And my cuz Chelsea and other best mate Sacha on our little thread we called ‘the Angels’ bouncing questions and offering loads of moral and spiritual support as well. We had a sweet little team.

When the doctor was doing the colposcopy, she noted that there were abnormal cells showing and took another biopsy to test. She said the results would take a while, so I wasn’t expecting any further news until a few weeks later.

A handful of days later, I was jumping off a flight from Christchurch where I had been doing an RMA meeting and launching a community waterways partnership project, into Auckland where I was off to launch a Kiwis for Kiwi project with Sir John Key and Helen Clarke the co-ambassadors for the project.

I saw I had a missed call from the doctor with a text follow up to give her a call. I called back, going down the escalator stairs and the sound was rubbish. I skirted off to a corner to take the call properly, expecting good news.

However, my kind doctor, who had been so incredible and taken calls from my family in the evenings, called to say the colposcopy had revealed I had cervical cancer.

The ‘C’ word hits you like a jolt I had never experienced. I gripped the wall in the airport. Calmed myself down before being met by Huia, one of my DOC staff and my driver who were taking me to the event.

In the car, I called my dad first. Mum was listening in on speaker phone. And I lost it. In the car. On the way to the event. Huia’s intuition kicked in, cancelling the event while I fell apart in the car. I was dropped at my parents place. Natty and my cousin Chelsea came over. Mani flew up that night and we cried and watched stupid stuff on netflix.

Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of MRIs, CT PET scans, and preparing for chemo and radiotherapy, and any other therapy I’ll need.

The Boss, Jacinda has been a mate, a colleague and my boss through this process. I cried telling her the night I found out. And her words were profound. I’ll always have so much respect for the way she’s dealt with me over this past couple of weeks or so. A text away – always. So today, she’ll make an announcement that I’ll be taking medical leave from work to focus on the fight I have ahead of me. She’ll also be appointing acting ministers to my portfolios.

I want to thank my colleagues for their support, and especially Meka and Tamati who will be helping to take over my local electorate duties in the East Coast. Everyone along the journey this far has been simply incredible. I’ve never really had much engagement and always been a little scared of hospitals. They have communicated incredibly well, been clear, shown compassion, and made themselves available. I can’t thank the Wellington Hospital Women’s Clinic, the gynecological team and the oncology teams enough.

I’ve told a few folks by now, and often the question is, “is there anything I can do?”. My answer now is yes. Please, please, please – encourage your sisters, your mothers, your daughters, your friends – please #SmearYourMea – it may save your life – and we need you right here.

For now, my whānau and I are requesting a bit of privacy while we come to terms with the challenge ahead.

Finally, I know there may be questions about why it’s taken this long to say something publicly and to step back from work. I guess I wanted to know as much info, and have a full diagnosis before taking any major decisions. We got the full diagnosis, stage 3 cervical cancer, last Thursday so it felt appropriate to say something now. I also want to acknowledge the internal support the Boss, my colleagues and the staff in my team have given over the past couple of weeks in letting me take the time I needed to digest before making this news public – aku mihi ki a koutou.

Heoi ano, arohanui from me to all of you (for now),

Kiri Allan – the proudest ever MP for the Mighty East Coast.

This is devastating news for her whanau, friends, and collegues. She is highly regarded across the political spectrum and the people taking over her portfolios have big shoes to fill.

When people here news like this they usually ask, is there anything I can do?

Kiri has given all of us the answer:

Please, please, please – encourage your sisters, your mothers, your daughters, your friends – please #SmearYourMea – it may save your life – and we need you right here.

This is very good advice, every woman should heed.

Smears can detect cervical cancer, and the earlier the detection the greater the chance of a positive outcome.

But smears don’t detect other gynaecological cancers.

Every woman should know the symptoms of the other four: ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar.

Every man should know the symptoms of cancers peculiar to them.

We all must take responsibility for our own health.

That’s not an invitation to hypochondria, but we should all know the symptoms of other cancers and other diseases.

If symptoms persist, we should go to our GP, and keep going until we get an answer to what’s causing them.

Getting checked when you have symptoms can make a huge difference to the severity of an illness, and the outcome.


Unfunded chemo drugs could be administered by DHBs

06/04/2021

If you get cancer in New Zealand and have the means you might be able to pay for chemotherapy drugs that aren’t funded here but are funded in other countries.

Paying for the drugs is expensive, what makes it even harder for many to afford, is paying for them to be administered.

National wants that to change:

The National Party wants to see the law changed so that Kiwis can have their unfunded chemotherapy drugs administered in DHBs and cover the cost of this, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“At the moment cancer medicines unfunded by PHARMAC can only be administered in expensive private cancer facilities at a further cost to the patient.

“So not only are patients mortgaging their homes, taking out loans and using up all their savings to buy their desperately needed medicines that PHARMAC won’t fund, they then have to pay tens of thousands of dollars on top of this to have these medicines administered.

“Transport for these people is a further hurdle and I have been contacted by patients who have had to travel many hours past their local DHB in order to access an expensive private facility.

“These are New Zealanders who are already in the incredibly heart breaking situation of having cancer and their chemotherapy drug isn’t funded. Making these New Zealanders then pay the costs of administering their medicines doesn’t seem fair to the National Party.

“National is proposing a law change that would allow DHBs to administer, and cover the cost of administering, day-stay cancer medicines where they are not funded by PHARMAC.

“Many New Zealanders have made huge sacrifices in order to get the treatment they need, it’s time for the State to partner with our most vulnerable and give them the best possible chance to manage their cancer.

“A few hours in an armchair in a day-stay chemotherapy unit pales in comparison to the tens of thousands, often hundreds of thousands, of dollars some people are paying for their unfunded chemotherapy drugs.

“When you see how much of an impact this would have on our vulnerable Kiwis, it’s a no brainer.

“The National Party is calling on the Government to support this law change and help make life a little easier for those Kiwis facing significant medical bills while trying to beat cancer.”

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is difficult.

Knowing that if you lived in another country, Australia, for example, you could get treatment that isn’t funded here, makes it even harder.

Paying for that treatment is very, every expensive; and too expensive for most patients. Even if medical insurance covers the cost of the drugs, it often doesn’t cover the cost of administering them.

Funding DHBs to administer chemo drugs that people fund privately, would relieve some of the financial burden for them, and could make a lifesaving difference.


Is the ‘flu vaccine late?

31/03/2021

Last week I went searching for news on the ‘flu vaccine programme and came across a page with the Ministry of Health policy:

From 2019 the Annual Influenza Immunisation Programme (the Programme) will start from 1 April each year.

This start date differs from previous years when the Programme started as soon as the influenza vaccine became available, generally by early March. The Ministry has considered a range of factors in making this decision including: emerging evidence on the effectiveness of influenza vaccines, influenza surveillance data, the impact of the start date on service delivery and feedback from the sector.

The start date from 1 April will be subject to the vaccine being available for distribution across New Zealand by then. Changes to vaccine strains can result in longer manufacturing lead time and the arrival of vaccines in late rather than early March.

Duration of influenza vaccine protection

New evidence shows that vaccine effectiveness begins to decline after influenza vaccination. Maximum protection from influenza is observed around two weeks after vaccination and starts to decline by about 7 percent every month. . . .

Influenza activity may occur throughout the year with the peak incidence during the winter months. New Zealand’s surveillance data shows that the peak has moved to August in recent years. Influenza surveillance data and the shift in peak influenza activity, in conjunction with declining vaccine effectiveness supports a change in the start date. The programme start date from 1 April ensures better protection against influenza during the peak incidence particularly for our most vulnerable populations.  . .

That all seems reasonable but yesterday I checked the MOH website and found this:

The 2021 Influenza Immunisation Programme will commence on 14 April 2021, with a two-week priority period for people eligible for a free influenza vaccination. These dates are dependent on approval by the regulator. 

We ask vaccinators to focus on immunising those who are eligible for a funded vaccination for the first two weeks of the programme to protect as many of those who are at greatest risk first, well ahead of the influenza season.

The first week of the prioritisation period is only for adults aged 65 and over and there is an additional vaccine this year that is specifically intended for this population.

The second week of the prioritisation period, from 21 April, extends to all those eligible for a funded vaccination.

Vaccination can then be extended to include the general population from 28 April 2021. . . 

April 14 is two weeks later and April 21 three weeks later, than the policy to start the programme on April 1.

That probably won’t matter for the people on the priority list.

But if the general population doesn’t start to get their vaccinations until 28th of April and the vaccine doesn’t reach maximum effectiveness for two weeks, are most people going to be at risk of contracting the disease before they’re protected?

Perhaps I’m being paranoid when there are so few people coming into the country, the risk of ‘flu might be much less than it would have been pre-Covid.

But this is the Ministry that bungled the measles vaccination. It’s also the Ministry that swore black and blue that there was plenty of stock for last year’s ‘flu vaccination rollout while those on the ground who were supposed to be administering them were saying there wasn’t, and they were eventually proved right.

It’s also the Ministry that’s in charge of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, for which we haven’t been told a plan, and for which there is no target:

National is calling on the Government to make a statement of intent about protecting New Zealanders from Covid-19 by setting a target of having at least 70 per cent of the adult population vaccinated, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“New Zealand is one of only a few countries in the OECD that doesn’t have a target for how many adults should be vaccinated. The others are Colombia and Mexico.

“Almost all countries are setting a vaccination target – usually 70 per cent of the adult population – and a date for achieving that target. New Zealand isn’t doing this either.

“The best the Government can say is that it wants all New Zealanders to be offered a vaccine by the end of the year. This isn’t good enough.

“We should be setting an ambitious target and going for it. A target will make sure the health system is focused, and means vaccination progress can be meaningfully tracked.

“Targets exist for the measles and flu vaccines. Not having one for Covid-19 suggests the Government doesn’t want to be held to account on this.

“If KiwiBuild taught us anything, it’s that the Labour Government isn’t great at hitting targets. But that shouldn’t matter. Our Covid-19 vaccine rollout is too important not to have one.

Mr Bishop also criticised the slow pace of the Government’s vaccine rollout to date, and the lack of transparency about how many vaccines are being administered in New Zealand.

“Most countries are doing daily, or near-daily, updates on how many people are being vaccinated. New Zealand has to settle for sporadic updates, randomly announced by Chris Hipkins or Ashley Bloomfield.

“New Zealanders should be getting near-daily announcements, published by the Ministry of Health, so everyone can see how our vaccine rollout is going. This isn’t rocket science – it already happens with testing and tracing.

“New Zealand started slow on vaccinations and we’re falling further behind the rest of the world. The latest available public information shows we have administered just 0.56 vaccines per 100 people, while Australia has administered 1.21 vaccines per 100 people.

“We weren’t at the front of the queue for receiving vaccines, like the Government said we were, and our vaccine rollout started slow because of this. It needs to gather pace.”

Call me cynical if you like, but the government is always keen to tell us the good news.

That it has made no mention of this year’s ‘flu vaccination programme, is being quiet about how many people have received the Covid-19 vaccine, has given only vague details about its roll-out to the general population, and appears to have no plan to set targets feeds the suspicion that it doesn’t have any good news about any of this.

 


Rural round-up

24/03/2021

Govt ‘naivety’ cause of crisis – Peter Burke:

Johnny Appleseed is one of the largest apple growers in New Zealand; director Paul Paynter says the current worker shortage crisis in the sector can be sheeted home to Government naivety.

He says when Covid-19 first hit the country – with many people losing their jobs and overseas workers stopped from coming to NZ – the Government was quick to claim it would provide an opportunity for Kiwis to take up jobs in the ag and hort sectors. However, he says while there has been some uptake, the reality has fallen well short of the enthusiastic expectations.

“It was just naïve optimism on the part of Government,” Paynter told Rural News.

He says people are not coming to the Hawkes Bay to pick apples for a number of reasons, the major one being the lack of accommodation. Paynter says there is a housing crisis in the region.

Drinking (milk) to economic recovery – The Detail:

When the price of milk surged 15 percent on the global dairy market earlier this month, even the boss of Fonterra was shocked.

“It was extraordinary,” says Jarden’s head of dairy derivatives, Mike McIntyre. “I’ve been following these auctions now for the better part of 10 years and I’ve seen it previously, but only in the past where we’ve been constrained.”

That was 2013 when the whole country was in drought and very little milk was being produced.

This time, says McIntyre, it is being driven by China’s thirst for milk.

“Last year, the Chinese government came out and essentially issued a directive to the public to say, to ward off the ill effects of Covid they should be consuming more than a glass of milk a day.” . . 

Covid-19 vaccine: Concerns over future uptake in rural areas – Riley Kennedy;

The government is being encouraged to think outside the box when rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine into rural communities.

Earlier this month, the government announced its plan to deliver the vaccine to the wider public.

From May, priority populations will be able to get the vaccine and from July, the remainder of the population will be able to get it.

There have been concerns from some health professionals that the uptake among people living in rural New Zealand could be slow – given some have to travel a long way to see their GP and therefore don’t always bother. . . 

Investing in consumers’ trust – Neal Wallace:

Meat companies are using the Taste Pure Nature brand alongside their own brands as they target environmentally-conscious foodie consumers.

Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) market development manager Nick Beeby told the organisation’s annual meeting that this demographic cares where their food comes from and are heavily influenced by digital channels such as food websites and bloggers who focus on natural foods.

They are considered a significant opportunity for NZ red meat sales, and Beeby says during the covid-19 pandemic consumers were increasingly discerning with their purchases, which was underpinned by the message associated with the B+LNZ developed taste pure nature brand.

“Consumers chose meat products that are better tasting, nutritious and satisfy environmental concerns,” Beeby said. . . 

A platform for red meat’s story – Neal Wallace:

A new website selling the virtues of red meat and dispelling some of its myths is being launched.

An initiative of Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA), the Making Meat Better website will tell the sector’s story, and provide information and data, while reinforcing the merits of red meat.

The 150 people who attended the B+LNZ annual meeting in Invercargill this week were told the site will provide data and statistics about the red meat sector, sell the virtues of being grass-raised, its nutritional attributes, while also extolling the environmental stewardship of farmers.

Data on the site will provide a balance to some of the criticism about red meat and farming by providing information on farming’s carbon footprint, action being taken on climate change and provide infographic resources that can be used.  . . 

 

Showgirls, rural achievers shine the way for ag :

The bush has a wealth of young talent who are turning their fantastic ideas and aspirations into reality.

You only have to look at the pages in last week’s Land to find young people who are ready to act or are acting on their projects.

And they are motivated – either by issues that some members of older generations might not want to confront such as climate change – or value adding to the great contributions of previous generations.

They are doing this despite the enforced isolation of the last year from the pandemic. . . 


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