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Govt's bird flu prep should be sped up

21 August 2005

GPs' concern shows Govt's bird flu prep should be sped up

The Green Party today repeated its call for the Government to speed up its preparations for a potential bird flu pandemic and, in particular, to ready GPs and the rest of the primary healthcare sector.

New Zealand doctors are reportedly buying up supplies of Tamiflu to protect their families and friends against the likely crossover of the deadly bird flu to humans. Auckland's Dr Simon Cotton has said many GPs are making the move because they don't trust the Health Ministry to make government stocks available. He is also quoted as being "staggered by the lack of information for doctors on how to prepare for bird flu, or how the government was planning for the epidemic."

"The Greens agree with Dr Cotton that there is a lack of preparedness for bird flu," Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"If GPs are so concerned about bird flu that they are stockpiling anti-viral drugs, the Health Ministry should be doing much more right now. They should have outlined their bird flu plan to every GP in New Zealand by now, it is disappointing and concerning that they haven't.

"Our GPs will be in the front line of dealing with a bird flu epidemic and it is vital that they are fully informed of the Government's plans and are properly prepared for an outbreak in New Zealand.

"The Government is only planning to stockpile enough Tamiflu for 20 percent of the population, and at present only has supplies for 10 percent. While this supply is earmarked for health workers and others in essential industries, sufficient supplies are also needed to ensure their families are also covered.

"Given that the Government's response seems to be that it will be up to New Zealanders to look after themselves in the event of a pandemic, it is not surprising that those who recognise the seriousness of the threat are taking things into their own hands," Ms Kedgley says.


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