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Heather Roy's Diary: Anyone else for a By-Election

Heather Roy's Diary: Anyone else for a By-Election
Heather Roy's Diary
25 July, 2003

ACT is dedicated to enabling New Zealanders to have more opportunities and choices in their own lives. We promote political and economic freedom, strong families and communities, smaller government, and greater empowerment of individuals.

Anyone else for a By-Election?

The thing that makes politics so interesting is its unpredictability. When Parliament re-convened on Tuesday, after two weeks of recess, everyone expected the National Party to deal with renegade MP Maurice Williamson at its weekly caucus meeting. A suspension seemed likely, although no one guessed it would only take the reported three minutes. But who could have guessed that Labour's Harry Duynhoven would arrive back to find that his political future hangs in the balance, with Parliament's Privileges Committee looking into his dual citizenship. Apparently an MP cannot take out citizenship of another country while a sitting member. Because of his dual nationality - Mr Duynhoven is both Dutch and Kiwi - the Electoral Act may cause his New Plymouth seat to be declared vacant. So, this week, by-elections have been the talk of the Parliamentary complex.

Was that a Walkout, or a Drift-In?

There has been increasing frustration on the opposition benches at Labour Ministers' habit of evasively addressing questions at Question Time. NZ First Leader Winston Peters was thrown out of the House on Wednesday for being rude to the Speaker, following frustration at a particularly obvious case of question avoidance. His team was unsure whether to join him in the lobby but, after a false start, decided they would. Ron Mark announced a 'walk-out', but one MP stayed. Others described it as a team talk in the lobby. A short time later they drifted back in, to the quip of "What's this - a mass walk in?" Question Seven was completely disrupted, although - with the quality of recent answers so questionable - I'm not sure that the House noticed.


Last week I wrote about doctors, and their desire to be excluded from the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Bill (HPCA). They have good reason to want to be left out and, this week, I set in motion the drawing up of amendments which will be voted on when the Bill comes before the House.

Other professions also face many changes, and part of the Bill is devoted to pharmacists. Changes to pharmacy ownership are included, but their main problem is the Government's move (through its agency PHARMAC) towards three-month dispensing. At present, doctors prescribe most long-term medications for three months, which are dispensed by the pharmacist in three lots of one month. There are exceptions - the main one being sleeping pills, which can only be prescribed for one month. This is done to prevent abuse. The Government determines the profit that the pharmacists make from dispensing, and they have been becoming progressively meaner. Pharmacists receive no margin on their pharmaceuticals - you may find this hard to believe, but it is true. Actually it is slightly worse, because the drugs are reimbursed at five percent below wholesale, so that the Government pockets bulk-buying savings. The pharmacists remain in the black by receiving a dispensing fee, which is about $5 per doctor's script. The For many the convenience of three monthly dispensing will be welcomed, but the Government - in saying this should be the norm - misses the point completely. In 1996 PHARMAC decided to cut costs by moving from one-month dispensing to three-month because of, in their words, "safety concerns". Now these same safety concerns seem to have disappeared - and, because of changed prescription fee calculations, the costs can be cut by moving dispensing back to three monthly. The Government has missed the point, because doctors prescribe medication - the dispenser (pharmacist) is the messenger that the Health Minister seems determined to shoot. A concession has been made to allow doctors to determine the dispensing regime, but the expectation is that most medications will be three monthly pick-ups. This will see much waste, as many people stop taking their pills well short of the three months. I have been inundated with letters from concerned relatives of elderly people who are unreliable with medication taking,

Soviet-Style Pharmacies

My main concern, however, is the Labour Government's real agenda. Health Minister Annette King said at a recent Health Select Committee hearing that it was not the job of her government to guarantee pharmacists a profit, meaning they should stop moaning about her over-regulated system. In the latest Pharmacy Today magazine, she says she finds it difficult to reconcile pharmacists promoting themselves as health professionals while selling non-health-related items - such as giftware, cameras, or running Lotto franchises. The Minister would like to see pharmacist-owned pharmacies out of business. This would allow the state to own them, through District Health Boards and PHOs (Primary Health Organisations). Pharmacists would be state employees, and the Government would be where it wants to be - in charge. One thing is certain: in Government-run pharmacies, the prescriptions - along with the giftware, cameras, and Lotto franchises - will be available "Soviet style" ... the queues will be long, and service a

Heather Roy is an ACT List MP. She was elected to Parliament in July 2002. Heather is a former Physiotherapist and Medical Research Co-ordinator. She was also Publicity Officer for the New Zealand Portrait Gallery. Her portfolio areas are Health, ACC, Women's Affairs, Youth Affairs, Senior Citizens, Arts Culture and Heritage and Internal Affairs. Heather is married to Duncan, a Psychiatrist and they have 5 children. She was attracted to ACT because of the principles of freedom, choice and personal responsibility.

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