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Government Under Pressure As Meningitis Escalates

by Selwyn Manning

Communicable disease continues to haunt the Government over its social policy performance. The rates of meningococcal disease recorded in Auckland continues to soar with Auckland witnessing a continuing epidemic.

Facts released by Auckland Healthcare’s Public Health unit show 53 cases of meningitis were recorded last month. That is three times the number recorded for August last year. And again the facts show deadly communicable disease has been on the increase for the past nine years.

Doctors had thought the meningitis epidemic had eased. But Auckland Healthcare’s Simon Baker says this year's statistics indicate it may well be around for another three years.

This year the meningitis rate is heading towards the worst on record with 169
people having contracted meningitis so far, and may rise above the peak experienced in 1997.

The meningitis facts follow a revealing survey of 400 households nationwide which have an income of $23,000 or less. The survey found 73 percent of people cannot pay all their bills and have abandoned buying foods such as potatoes. It found many consider to be poorly clothed and cannot afford doctors visits when sick. Many share houses with other families to pool rental and mortgage costs.

But Social Services Minister, Roger Sowry, says the survey of low-income households holds no evidence that the Government's social policies are not working.

Labour Mangere MP Taito Phillip Field has long challenged the Government on the effects of its market rents housing policy. He says overcrowding clearly causes families hardship and contributes to poor health, particularly among children and the elderly. Mr Field says this all places extra strain on hospitals and drains the governmental coffers of revenue.

But Sowry says the survey is small and gives no clues as to how the households surveyed came to be in their situations.

He says it is possible many of the respondents are not getting extra assistance they are entitled to, and he says every case has to be weighed up individually.

See also: Survey Confirms Scoop Social Decline Investigation at http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL9909/S00199.htm

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