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Lack Of Action On TB Disturbing

Media Release


23 September 2008


Lack Of Action On TB Disturbing

New Zealand First says it is disturbing that nothing has been done to increase our level of vigilance about the diagnosis and screening of tuberculosis in visitors to this country.

This follows the revelation that in 2005 a South Korean tourist was flown home on a charter flight after three months in hospital because she had extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis and was untreatable, incurable and highly infectious.

“This may sound like a review of a not particularly believable television programme but unfortunately it is not, said health spokesperson Barbara Stewart.

“The woman in question entered the country on a three-month visitor permit to see her daughter who is a New Zealand resident. The daughter was aware of her mother’s condition but appears to have thought it was quite acceptable to help arrange her mother’s trip.

“Try running that past the average taxpayer and see how keen they are to facilitate family reunions with such potential for disaster. The generous taxpayer then picked up the tab for a $330,000 secret charter flight to send the tourist home after her three month hospital stay. Presumably no criminal charges were laid against the daughter who concealed the truth about her mother’s condition.

“However it would be incorrect to think this was a one-off because the gaps in health and immigration legislation which permitted this have been closed. Our largest tuberculosis epidemic, also involving a Korean immigrant, occurred in 2006 in Palmerston North and cost more than $279,000. Two years later the Health and Immigration departments are still tossing this hot potato around.

“The answers to recent written questions reveal that we need to smarten up our act before our luck runs out,” said Mrs Stewart.


ENDS


7383 (2008). Barbara Stewart to the Associate Minister of Health (11 Aug 2008): Will the Health Ministry review immigration health guidelines following the outbreak of tuberculosis at Palmerston North Boys High School in late 2006 which originated from a Korean immigrant who was a student at the school; if not, why not?

Hon Steve Chadwick (Associate Minister of Health) replied: The immigration health guidelines are the responsibility of Immigration New Zealand, not the Ministry of Health.


7384 (2008). Barbara Stewart to the Associate Minister of Health (11 Aug 2008): When will the Health Ministry’s revision of the Guidelines for Tuberculosis Control in New Zealand be completed and when will any necessary changes identified in that revision be put into place?

Hon Steve Chadwick (Associate Minister of Health) replied: I refer the Member to my answer to Question No. 07382 (2008)

7382 (2008). Barbara Stewart to the Associate Minister of Health (11 Aug 2008): Will the Health Ministry review the scientific testing used to detect tuberculosis following the outbreak of tuberculosis at Palmerston North Boys High School in late 2006 which was undiagnosed for five months; if not, why not?

Hon Steve Chadwick (Associate Minister of Health) replied: The Ministry of Health is currently revising the 2003 'Guidelines for Tuberculosis Control in New Zealand'. This revision will include updated information on tools used for diagnosis of tuberculosis infection, and will include information and recommendations for use of the different testing methods. I anticipate that the revision of the Guidelines will be completed by the end of 2008. The Ministry will then analyse any changes and will develop a plan for implementing any necessary changes.

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