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Political Correctness Hits Medical Service

HON BRIAN DONNELLY MP
SPOKESPERSON FOR EDUCATION


MEDIA RELEASE - Speech to House 20TH SEPTEMBER 2000

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS HITS MEDICAL SERVICE


Prior to coming to the House today, I did a quick analysis of travel times on an AA map. It takes as long to drive from Auckland to Te Hapua in the Far North as it does to drive from Auckland to Levin.

To give South Islanders some feel for the distances involved this is about the same time as travelling from Christchurch to Invercargill. I make this point to enlighten people on the distances and times that it actually takes to travel in Northland. And this is on State Highways. Northland has the worst roads and the largest proportion of metal roads anywhere in New Zealand.

High quality emergency health provisions are a high priority for Northlanders, particularly for those living in the most isolated areas who just happen to be mainly Maori. The people of Northland have responded to their particular needs. In 1998 the Northland Emergency Services Trust was established to provide helicopter services to transport the ill and injured expeditiously to locations where they could be treated. Over the 12 years it has been operational the Northland Emergency Services Trust has developed what is arguably the best of such services in New Zealand. It commenced with a Squirrel helicopter which was limited in capacity, but over the years it has upgraded to an S76 which can transport 2 patients at the same time as a doctor and a paramedic can provide treatment and operate in 99.5%of weather conditions.

Every year throughout Northland, sponsored by the local electricity company, an appeal is held to help fund the helicopter services and most Northlanders put their hands in their pockets. Northlanders know how important this service is to them and know the quality of the service provided. Most Far North marae, encouraged by a particular local kuia, make an annual contribution. As befits the population of Northland over half the staff are Maori. The helicopter has been blessed along with the staff who work in the service. There are occasions when it is important for those using the service that these steps have been taken.

For nearly 12 years the Air Ambulance service has been working with and for the Order of St John, Northland Health and ACC covering a region from Kaiwaka to North Cape and off-shore for up to 100 nautical miles. To give some idea of the operation in the year to 31st March 2000 the service carried out 386 missions, transporting over 400 patients. 151 of these missions was for the ACC.

Recently the contract with ACC has come up for re-tender. The contracting process required information on four different categories, one of which was customer service. This was further subdivided into 6 areas two of which were:
integration of Maori Kaupapa and cultural differences of ethnic groups.

Under “Integration of Maori Kaupapa” the Trust responded as follows; “All victims receive the same appropriate treatment irrespective of race or creed. Wherever possible cultural sensitivities are taken into account but the patients welfare is paramount.” To “Cultural Differences of Ethnic Groups” the Trust responded. “Wherever possible these factors are taken into account but aircraft safety and patient well-being must be the first consideration.”

The Trust has a Maori member on its Board, has more than half of its staff Maori, had undertaken culturally appropriate treatment of both aircraft and its staff, had the active support of the Northland marae committees.

Last week the Trust found out that its contract with ACC will not be renewed. Here are the reasons, and I quote from a letter of 14th September from David Rankin, General Manager of the ACC Healthwise.

“The evaluation team identified that the proposal submitted by Northland Emergency Services Trust did not provide evidence of good working relationships with treatment providers and other emergency service providers, documentation of quality assurance provides (the Trust is ISO 9002 accredited and notes this in its tender or the protection of claimants rights. (A service which has been operating for 12 years without a claim against it)” But here’s the honey “ Furthermore, the information on how the provider was going to provide culturally appropriate services was lacking.” This is political correctness gone mad.

The people who made this decision had never visited Northland, had never visited Northland Emergency Trust, had never viewed its operation. The decision was made on the paperwork.

And what did the paperwork show-“information on how the provider was going to provide culturally appropriate services was lacking.”

What are the implications for Northlanders of this decision. In the words of a medical expert, a doctor, “As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, people are going to die.” People are going to die because Northland Emergency Services Trust, which has been saving Northlanders lives for 12 years did not fill out the boxes on Maori Kaupapa and cultural sensitivity in a way which satisfied bureaucrats sitting in an office in Wellington.


Is this the way to make decisions affecting peoples lives? Is this the way to run a country. And remember, this is the organisation which has just been given a monopoly over work place accident insurance. Making decisions based on half-baked notions of political correctness and not on how well the core functions are to be carried out.

Northlanders will now have Rolls-Royce service to meet health needs based on the site of the Order of St John’s, working in harmony with the St John’s and health providers and a Mini-Minor service for accidents. The message is clear – if you have a car accident in the Hokianga say you have had a heart attack. Then you will get to fly in an S-76, two patient helicopter with full medical staff which can operate in 99.5% of weather conditions, rather than a single seater Squirrel helicopter flying out of the airport. This sort of machine was rejected years ago by our Air Ambulance service as being inappropriate. And if there is two injured patients they will have to toss a coin to see which one gets to ride in the helicopter. The other patient will have to wait for a helicopter to come up from Auckland.

How would the people of Levin feel if their emergency services were based in Auckland, or the people of Invercargill if theirs was based in Christchurch? That is what is being offered to the people of Northland. All because the Northland Emergency Services Trust could not prove that they were sensitive to Maori Kaupapa or other cultural sensitivities.

I want to make it clear that the blame for this state of affairs does not accrue to the Ministers, neither the Minister of Health not the Minister of ACC. But it is ironic that Annette King delivered a speech on Friday on how she is going to overcome the fragmentation of services when decisions were in train to fragment the Air Ambulance services in Northland, it is ironic that this Government is talking about closing the gaps and all that has led to is decisions like this one which will inevitably widen the gaps. I do not need to re-iterate the absurdity of this decision. The evidence is obvious, But I can articulate the sheer anger of Northlanders, medical practitioners, service providers, community workers as expressed at a meeting on Monday.

The Government has opened the door for the absurdity of decision making such as this to be explained away under the cover of political correctness. Unless we change from the path we are going down “the information on how the provider was going to provide culturally appropriate services was lacking.” will sound the death knell of many high quality proposals for social service deliverers in this country.

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