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Plunket Seeks Meeting With PM On Plunket Line

BIG NEWS with Dave Crampton

Plunket Seeks Urgent Meeting With Prime Minister Over Plunket Line

Plunket line, as we know it, will be history come 30 June. The Government announced that McKesson New Zealand has won the contract for the service.

Plunket bosses are so mad that they have announced that they are seeking an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Helen Clark, and a letter requesting a meeting is already on its way. Plunket officials want to ask whether it is the Governments intention to undermine Plunket.

Labour campaigned in 1999 that it would fund it the service through Plunket. Helen Clark and Annette King launched a petition to fully fund a 24-hour help line through Plunket. They pledged that once in office they would ensure Plunket line never closed due to lack of funding.

Here's what Prime Minister had to say while in opposition.

"We will move to fund the Plunket line for 24 hour coverage," - Helen Clark (November 1999) Speech to Wellington Campaign Rally.

"The reasons why the Government and its many health bureaucracies won’t fund Plunketline go beyond mere pennypinching," - Helen Clark (March 1995) Speech to Royal NZ Plunket Society’s 52nd National Conference.

"I want to make a special plea for government funding of Plunket line. It was Labour’s policy to fund it because we have been very impressed by the service. With more funding to operate more lines with more nurses, it could have been even better." Helen Clark (April 1997) Speech to Royal New Zealand Plunket Society.

Plunket President Kaye Crowther said, "The Government is placing key parts of the care of our children in the hands of an off-shore multi-national who the Ministry of Health has acknowledged has little or no experience in well child services".

But the process of getting rid of Plunket line started years ago. The service was receiving $1 million of taxpayer funding. Most calls were going unanswered because more tax payer funds were needed to keep up with demand. With more funding, it could have been better, Miss Clark initially said.

Instead of boosting Plunket line by $2 million, the Government chose to boost the Ministry of Health's Healthline funding by $2 million and merge the two services.

Back in 2003, the Ministry of Health sought tenders for the provision of a national Healthline service. The tender requested that the national Healthline service provider include the provision of advice on Well Child and parent support, a service that had been provided by Plunket.

McKesson New Zealand and The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society put in a joint proposal which was accepted by the Ministry of Health. This meant that Plunket line was operated by Plunket on subcontract to McKesson.

Yet with triple the funds of Plunket line, up to 90 percent of calls were not being answered due to technical problems with the service [SCOOP EDITOR'S NOTE: McKesson disputes this contention and has been invited to submit a clarification.] - perhaps because all of the $2 million extra funding didn't go into the Plunket line operation. Plunket line was set up to fail.

Now Plunket has been removed from providing the service as McKesson is to take over the "Well Child" service. Perhaps that was the plan all along. Nobody told parents of preschoolers that.

There is absolutely no guarantee that the new service will match the Plunket service. Plunket was told that they did not get the contract because the Government thinks that McKesson can provide a better clinical telephone-based service. The new provider of this service after 1 July 2006 does not have the nurses to guarantee this service to the level specified in the contract

Helen Clark, who has never used Plunket line for her children, doesn't seem to realise that mothers do not just want a functional clinical telephone service.

It is not forgotten that the merger between Health line and Plunket line was announced on a Friday at the beginning of a Parliamentary recess - identical to the timing of the announcement of Plunket line's demise.

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Dave Crampton is a Wellington blogger and blogs at http://big-news.blogspot.com


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