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Ryall: Major gaps in pandemic planning

Hon Tony Ryall
National Party Health Spokesman

23 November 2005


Ryall: Major gaps in pandemic planning

There are increasingly obvious gaps in New Zealand’s planning for a pandemic, says National’s Health spokesman, Tony Ryall.

“The biggest gap is getting medical care to those people being looked after at home,” says Mr Ryall.

“A pandemic could see hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders isolated on their sickbeds. The pandemic plan says most sick people should be cared for at home. But there’s no plan on how to get them medical care.

“It’s vital that primary medical care is properly organised and available for these thousands of people. For example, many people will need antibiotics for secondary infections like pneumonia.

“It’s going to require a huge workforce, yet the Minister of Health is completely unaware of how authorities will treat people at home.

“We need a systematic approach, not good luck and a few volunteers.

“National is also concerned that the first co-ordinated whole-of-government rehearsal of bird flu pandemic plans is scheduled for late 2007! That’s almost two years away. It is too long to wait to see if the plans work.

“We also confirmed today that the Ministry of Health has not begun increasing national supplies of antibiotics and essential personal medicines such as insulin. If the borders are closed for some weeks then ordinary New Zealanders need to know that their medications will still be available.

“One of the lessons of the 1918 pandemic was that well-organised areas suffered fewer tragedies than those that were unprepared.

“It’s important these gaps are remedied and that’s why a multi-party approach is needed,” says Mr Ryall.

ENDS

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