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Cunliffe tries to cover up embarrassing goof

Tony Ryall MP National Party Health Spokesman

7 April 2008

Cunliffe tries to cover up embarrassing goof

National Party Health spokesman Tony Ryall is amazed that David Cunliffe issued a media statement with starkly false figures.

"In his ill-judged eagerness to engage in personal abuse, Mr Cunliffe compared half-year figures with full-year figures, then gloated the numbers had doubled!

"The misinterpretation was so embarrassing that the Minister was forced to order an emergency 'KILL' notice on his media statement.

"Any Minister on top of his job would have immediately recognised that the figures were wrong. Yet, Mr Cunliffe released them along with a tirade of personal abuse.

"A ministerial order to KILL a statement because of a major blunder is rare indeed. In the future, the media will rightly distrust his statements and ask themselves whether any new statement will later be KILLED as well.

"Having fallen in the mire, Mr Cunliffe then dug himself even deeper. His second attempt to put a positive spin on the figures was no better.

"He has mixed and matched different series of statistics to try to hide the fact that fewer patients are getting to the vital 'gatekeeper' first appointments with hospital specialists - despite the extra $6 billion a year going into health."

Mr Ryall says he has released the figures regularly for the past three years. Previous Ministers have accepted them and have vainly tried to argue the decline in first specialist assessments was because New Zealanders were more healthy.

"Labour is making it harder to see a hospital specialist so it can hide the true size of hospital waiting lists. Since the waiting list cull, it is getting harder and harder for patients to even get on a list for a specialists appointment. Ask any GP."

The number of people receiving a first specialist assessment has dropped from 406,096 in 2001 to 396,512 in 2007, even though the population grew by 8% - and is older.

ENDS

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