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Heather Roy's Diary

Friday, October 10, 2008

Heather Roy's Diary

The global credit crunch worsens; the Prime Minister commandeers an Air Force plane to fly to electioneering meetings; the National Party loses nerve over tax cuts.  There's certainly been no shortage of political headlines this week - and, with only 28 days to go until Election Day and the IMF predicting a global recession, this situation will remain for a while yet.

I've commented on several of these things this week on my 'Royters' blog (  Significant is the fact that National has done yet another U-turn, this time on its long-anticipated and much-touted tax cuts.  This might be politically smart for National, but Kiwis can now expect - even with a change of government - to remain stuck with Michael Cullen's economic policy.

If there were ever a time for holding one's nerve, the current economic climate makes this it.  A solid recovery plan needs to be implemented - Dr Cullen's 39cent envy tax, the top rate of personal taxation, should be abolished immediately and lower flatter tax rates implemented.  Government expenditure should be capped, and red tape slashed, to give Kiwis the best chance to weather the tidal wave that this economic downturn is becoming.  There is only one Party that has the nerve to lead New Zealand through this rough patch the ACT Party.

Government Fails On Cardiac Services
Health hit the headlines again this week, with Tuesday morning's release of the 'Cardiac Surgery Services in New Zealand' report, which analysed the state of the country's cardiac services.

In a nutshell, the report found that New Zealand's provision of cardiac surgery lags behind that of the rest of the world.  The report was quickly followed by Health Minister David Cunliffe announcing $50 million of funding over four years to assist in better access to cardiothoracic services - not new funding, although that was implied, but money re-directed from elsewhere in the health budget.

Coincidence?  Clearly not.  However, Mr Cunliffe has again highlighted the Labour ideology of throwing money at a problem in the hopes that it will simply go away - and clearly, it is election time.

By 2pm on that same day, another report - 'Report on Patients Awaiting Cardiac Surgery: Capital and Coast District Health Board' - was released into the deaths of patients awaiting cardiothoracic care (heart surgery) at CCDHB.  The Government clearly thought it better to get all the bad news over and done with in one day.

This second report was only conducted because I highlighted these deaths in Parliament in December.  When I told the country about three avoidable Hawkes Bay deaths, Mr Cunliffe accused me of making the story up - even though he had already been informed of the deaths.  It was only after evidence was brought to light proving my claims that he took 'action' and ordered the report.  At the time, the Minister promised the report would be done within eight weeks - it took nine months.

According to the report, 16 patients have died while awaiting cardiac surgery from CCDHB - eight of whom wouldn't have died had they received adequate care.  Of these, three had waited more than six months for surgery.  The report confirmed that public confidence in the doctors, nurses and health professionals at the front line is justified - but pointed out that clinical care was compromised by resource constraints:

"... potentially preventable patient deaths have occurred during the review period due to systems and resource issues."

The report authors warned that long waiting times and potentially preventable deaths could well be occurring at all other centres in New Zealand due to the same resource issues.  Recommendations in the report included reducing waiting times, increasing in-patient cardiac bed numbers.

While the Government line is that everything is now sorted, the first report shows this isn't the case.  However, there are solutions - growing the economy, and improving private-public co-operation so that patients have the best quality treatment in the best time at the best cost.

When people are sick they don't mind which hospital they go to - private, public it doesn't matter - they just want to know they will be treated quickly and well.  If Labour took off its philosophical blinkers long enough to see the roadblocks it has created to good co-operation between all services, fewer people would have died and apologies wouldn't be needed.

Lest We Forget - Double Ten Day (October 10, 1911)
While democracy has taken root in Europe more quickly than in other continents, there have been those who have struggled for democracy elsewhere.  October 10, 1911 marks a day of celebration in Taiwan and China as they celebrate the Wuchang Uprising and start of the Xinhai Revolution against the Qing Dynasty.  The Qing - sometimes known as the Manchus - had ruled in China in medieval manner since the 17th Century and educated Chinese were aware that their country was falling behind.

The revolution gained so much spontaneous support that little blood was shed at the time.  Revolutionary and political leader Dr Sun Yat-sen formed the Kuomintang (KMT), which ruled most of China until the civil war (1945-49).  The KMT escaped to Taiwan and ruled there.  At first Taiwan was a one-Party state, but it has now passed the test as a fully-fledged democracy - the KMT was voted out of power, replaced by the Democratic Party and recently returned to power under President Ma.

The Chinese refer to this day as Double Ten Day - the 10th day of the 10th month - in much the same way as the Western world now refers to September 11 as 9/11.
I attended the Taiwan National Day celebrations in Wellington this week and, along with Sue Wood, spoke to the guests.  Mrs Wood made the comment that the strength of democracy is that, once you've been voted out, it's possible to win back power.  It's been a hard 97 years for Asian democrats; let's hope the next 97 are somewhat easier for them.


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