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Govt not well-informed of bird flu risk

Hon Tony Ryall
National Party Health Spokesman

3 February 2006


Govt not well-informed of bird flu risk

While most New Zealanders are reportedly taking the threat of a bird flu pandemic ‘seriously enough’, the Labour Government is not, says National’s Health spokesman, Tony Ryall.

Mr Ryall is commenting on a TNS phone survey on pandemic perceptions, commissioned by the Ministry of Health.

"There are major gaps in the Government's pandemic planning that will put lives at risk,” says Mr Ryall.

"During a pandemic health facilities would be under incredible stress. Most sick people will have to stay at home. Many will need medical care of some sort, yet there is still no plan on how to get medical care to sick people at home.

"This is the most fundamental issue that the Government keeps ignoring. People will die because of this.

"The Government is also failing to increase the supplies of essential personal medicines like insulin. And there is still no one agency responsible for national co-ordination and leadership.

"Another weakness is the Government's pamphlet telling sick people to ring their GP. Frankly, at the height of a pandemic this won’t work. Where is the planning for telephone triage centres to deal with such calls? Is the Government going to rely on the failing Healthline?

"Right now there are 28 prototype vaccines being developed by 13 manufacturers around the world. Having the capacity to make enough vaccine quickly enough is a major issue for all countries wanting to secure vaccine. This Government is showing no leadership in looking at how it can assist.

"National has been calling for a multi-party approach on this for months. And still we have heard nothing from the Government," says Mr Ryall.

ENDS

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