News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search

 


Senior Hospital Doctors sound warning over TPPA talks

Senior Hospital Doctors sound warning over TPPA talks

Here in NZ, we have a proud history of taxpayer funded, quality public health care.

Even if we don’t always love how our public health care system works, for most people it does...well…work. The medicines, care, surgical and other procedures that keep people as healthy as possible, get them well when they are sick, and help them live better lives, are generally available to all - regardless of income level, insurance status or location.

New Zealanders who travel to the United States, or more recently, just turn on the news and hear about Obama Care, are often shocked at the out of pocket costs that Americans can face for services, tests, prescriptions and procedures.

One of the things that stops health costs spiraling out of control here, is the tight hold that the government purchasing agency Pharmac has on the market.

The $30m plus a year that Pharmac saves through careful bulk purchasing pays for a raft of tests, medicines, health services and procedures. So anything that makes it hard for Pharmac to do its job, impacts many New Zealanders.

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), currently under negotiation, could remove much of Pharmac’s power, and put it in the hands of international drug companies – something that should concern us all. Additionally it will limit key health strategies to address health hazards arising from tobacco and alcohol use.

New Zealand is one of twelve countries from Asia and the Pacific Rim currently negotiating the agreement, which is said to be in its ‘end game’.

Nobody really knows for sure, since the negotiations have been conducted behind closed doors, and details are sparse, beyond what has been leaked to the media. There are worrying indications that pharmaceutical companies – known for their deep pockets and high pressure tactics – may be wielding undue influence over the talks. If nothing else, it is deeply concerning that we are hearing so little about what goes on at the TPPA talks - especially given the many facets of life that could be adversely affected by their outcome.

Under another part of the TPPA, multi-national corporations could utilise investor-state settlement mechanisms to sue governments for compensation in international tribunals. Already a US drug company is seeking $500m (Canadian dollars) for alleged ‘discrimination’ against it in Canada, after it revoked patents for two drugs that were not delivering the expected results (and failed to satisfy the tests required by their domestic law).
This is hardly surprising. ‘Big Pharma’ will always behave like Big Pharma - we have to expect that. It’s their job to maximise their profits, at every opportunity. They promise their shareholders that they will do that, and they will do almost anything to achieve it. The TPPA plays into their hands. ABC news reports suggest it is designed to deal with 'behind-the-border impediments' - another phrase for national sovereignty.

Are we willing to enter into such an agreement at the expense of our national health, wellbeing and independence in such a critical area of life?

What are we willing to do to stop multi-national corporates - or anyone else, for that matter - from being given the power to put a wrecking ball through key parts of our health system?

None of us can opt out of the public health system completely, when some of our most unexpected, critical health decisions happen within it.

Dedicated doctors and nurses do their absolute best, every day, with the tools and resources at their disposal, defined by the limitations of the health budgets and policies that were debated, set, approved or simply let happen by today’s politicians and health policy makers. That should give all of us pause for thought from time to time: especially those who are shaping the health services of tomorrow.

A far off trade deal in a distant land may seem a million miles away from a GP visit, prescription, x-ray form or specialist invoice, but its impacts are closer than we all know.

Next time you see a dollar figure on a health receipt, use it as a reminder to learn a bit more, take a bit more notice of how health services are funded, and if you are so inclined, to do a bit more about the TPPA.

Demand to know more about New Zealand’s participation in the talks, so you can make up your own mind about what you think. Its impacts go way beyond healthcare - there may well be other aspects that concern you.

Write to MPs, the Trade Minister and Prime Minister and encourage them to tell all of us more about what is going on around the TPPA table. We need to give them the message that, if we sign up for it at all, let’s make this an agreement that serves New Zealanders and their health well.

Our children and grandchildren will thank us for it.

Erik Monasterio is a Consultant in Forensic Psychiatry and co-author of ‘Pharmaceutical industry behaviour and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement’, which appears in this month’s New Zealand Medical Journal. Written on behalf of the Executive of the Canterbury Hospitals Medical Staff Association.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 

Fringe Review: Rossum’s Universal Robots

Written in 1920 by Karel Capek in a newly independent Czechoslovakia, its prophetic tale of artificial intelligence, automata and human morality was initially a big hit, but it then vanished from view, in New Zealand at least, before being revived in Hamilton last year. More>>

SELECT FRINGE SHOWS:

Pictures Of Media: Call For Photographs For Reimagining Journalism

In August this year Freerange Press is launching its next big book. This time we are gathering the best writers and thinkers in the country to look at the changing media landscape in New Zealand. To illuminate and give voice to the writing we want to include around 25 excellent photos. We want these photos to document the different aspects of how journalism is made, how it used to be, and how it is changing. More>>

Safer Internet Day: Keeping Safe Online More Important Than Ever

Tuesday 9 February marks Safer Internet Day. Safer Internet Day is designed to create awareness about the importance of Internet safety and encourages positive use of technology - with a strong focus on young people. More>>

ALSO:

We Have The Technology: Zephyrometer Up And Moving

“The needle’s stoppers had to be repaired because of the extra impact caused by the balance not being correct. We also added an extra 300kgs counter-balance – made from zinc coated steel triangle plates. These adjustments will now stop it bending low over the road in high winds.” More>>

ALSO:

Waitangi Day: Treaty Of Waitangi - Found In Translation

To celebrate the Society of Translators and Interpreters's 30th anniversary, over 90 translators will work together to translate the English and Māori versions of the Treaty of Waitangi into 30 languages... More>>

ALSO:

Northland Development: Trust Applauds $4m Government Funding For Art Centre

Today's announcement of central government support, made by Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce, provides a key step forward in funding for Whangarei’s Hundertwasser Art Centre & Wairau Maori Art Gallery. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
Health
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news