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Turia: Public Health Amendment Bill

New Zealand Public Health and Disability (Enhancement of Competition) Amendment Bill

2005

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Tangata whenua believe that in matters of hauora, our health and well-being, it is not enough to simply be absent of disease.

Health is about creating the optimum conditions for our full potential to be realized. In this view, we are firmly committed to a focus on the determinants of health and well-being, including poverty, housing, income, discrimination and the environment.

We will support the New Zealand Public Health and Disability (enhancement of competition) Bill through to the health committee.

We do so, because we believe the New Zealand public have a right to tell us whether it believes the current Commerce Act exemption is essential for Pharmac's ability to achieve positive health outcomes.

The key issue for the Maori Party is whether it will make a difference to the health of our people and whether it will ensure that people are able to get access to the best medication, if they need it.

Pharmac should be subject to same scrutiny as others

Pharmac has argued that if it loses its Commerce Act exemption it will be forced to spend money on defending litigation rather than on securing health outcomes.

I certainly have some sympathy for this view because I can recall that when Pharmac was first set up, there were a number of cases brought against Pharmac, which cost a considerable sum of money.

The complicating factor with the Commerce Act cases is that it is not only legal fees that are required, but also the fees of economics expertise, often from international sources. The reality is, one has to question the real value to the health of the nation, if our resources end up being tied up in ligitation.

The Maori Party absolutely appreciates the perspective of Pharmac that the goal of economic efficiency is not the only goal in terms of health and well-being.

It would seem sensible that Pharmac's actions in undertaking its drug purchasing activities should be subject to the same scrutiny as others in the market place.

The health and well-being of our whanau.

These are issues which affect us deeply, personally snf collectively.

I want to raise some of the questions that keep me awake at night:

* Why is it that the cancer death rate for Maori females is 89.6% higher than the non-Maori female rate?

* Why is it that the ischaemic heart disease mortality rate for Maori females is 119.2% higher than the non-Maori female rate;

* Why is it that the Maori female age-standardised rate for cerebrovascular disease was 52.8% higher than the non-Maori female rate

These statistics are stunning in their severity and as a nation we must care enough to do something about them - not because we want to 'close the gaps'; but because we believe that health is not a privilege; it is a right.

We hope that in supporting the Bill through to select committee, the submissions that we receive will keep us focused on the bigger picture and on how to achieve health gain through improving access to pharmaceuticals and health care.

The pharmaceuticals we are talking about are the best and will improve the quality of life.

Will this lead to a buyer's market or a seller's market, and most of all, how will it improve the health and well-being of the people?

The Maori Party is prepared to support the bill through to the Health Committee so that the debate can be held.

ENDS

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