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Heather Roy's Diary

Heather Roy's Diary

The Campaign So Far

The Labour Party is populated by professional politicians and they don't make a move without first taking an opinion poll of the electorate. Therefore, we can be sure that the Prime Minister knows what she is doing as she campaigns with Jeannette Fitzsimons in Auckland and Jim Anderton in Christchurch. The voters are looking for politicians who can co-operate with others.

The National Party continues to campaign on the slogan that only National can beat Labour which postulates that National can get 50% of the vote by itself. This leaves Don Brash looking somewhat isolated but there is as yet no sign of a change in National's strategy.

ACT and Health

Over the last three years I have fought a guerilla campaign to expose the real statistics behind hospital waiting lists. Labour will proudly tell you that they have increased spending on health by several billion, but try to suppress reports that show declining productivity. Statistics by themselves are dry and boring and one case demonstrates the serious shortcomings of the current administration.

The case I want to talk about is that of 15-year-old Angie Webster. You can read about her in full at www.angiesstory.org.nz . But here are a couple of excerpts from that website:

"The Webster's nightmare began in December 1999 when Angie stopped breathing and was rushed to Taranaki Base Hospital. She was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a rare form of tachycardia, or abnormal heart rhythms that causes palpitations. In the past, open-heart surgery was necessary to correct the condition (Sir Richard Hadlee was the last in New Zealand to undergo this procedure), but medical advances mean these days tachycardia can be corrected through non-invasive surgery. Doctors insert a catheter in a vein in the groin and radio frequency currents are used in the heart to disconnect the abnormal electrical connections. The operation is 90 per cent successful - if you can get it.

Angie Webster was not so lucky. She was put on a waiting list and her mother Margaret, a supervisor at Pak 'n' Save, was told she may have to wait up to 18 months before a bed became available at Waikato Hospital. Angie was put on medication - Flecainide - and sent home. Meanwhile, her condition worsened. She stopped playing sport, became chronically exhausted, and then one day collapsed while walking to the movies.

Angry at her daughter's life being "put on hold" and seeing Angie suffer from the now extremely high dosages of another drug, Margaret confronted Health Minister Annette King at a public meeting in New Plymouth. But an unmoved Mrs King told her to go back to her specialist, or contact her local MP, Harry Duynhoven.

For Margaret Webster it was fatuous advice because she'd been talking frequently to Angie's specialist about her daughter's condition. Angie's medication - because of the long wait for surgery - had already been cranked up to dangerously high levels. Indeed, when the Hawera coroner reported on Angie's death in January 2001, his findings stated it was the lethal amount of the heart drug that killed this young teenager - a drug she'd been forced to take because of the long wait for surgery."

In my experience it is not uncommon for doctors to be blamed for failures of treatments that they know are second best which are administered for reasons of cost. Their predicament is very similar to police officers driving in a Prime Ministerial motorcade.


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