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TB outbreaks indictment of Government policy

Labour
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Labour leader Helen Clark said today that news of two shocking outbreaks of tuberculosis in poor communities is a terrible indictment of National's nine years of economic and social policy.

In South Auckland 24 people, mainly children, have been infected and in a suburb of Whangarei another 12 people have contracted the disease.

Helen Clark said that it was both ironic and tragic that on the same day as the Whangarei TB outbreak was reported Northland Health declared a profit.

"When the public health system makes profits while people in its community are contracting diseases of poverty, it is clear that something has gone desperately wrong in New Zealand.

The Medical Officer of Health in South Auckland, Dr Lester Calder, is forthright in saying that poverty is associated with the South Auckland outbreak.

"Poor housing conditions in South Auckland have arisen directly from the callous market rent policy applied by National to all families regardless of ability to pay. That has led to significant overcrowding, conditions which contribute directly to the spread of tuberculosis.

"In recent years the Government has tried to fob off responsibility for the growth in the number of tuberculosis cases by claiming that they are associated with immigration. Yet Dr Calder says that there is now a trend for the TB rate to rise among New Zealand born people.

"It is now clear that the large gaps which have grown between New Zealanders as a wrong-headed economic and social policy model has been pursued is leading to the return of diseases of poverty like tuberculosis.

"Under Labour closing the gaps by proper support for public housing, better primary health care in communities, and a more hands-on approach to economic and job growth will over time eliminate the wretched conditions in which many of our families have been forced to live.

"On the eve of a general election, what could be a more graphic illustration of National's utter failure to provide anything resembling a decent society than these outbreaks of tuberculosis in communities under severe economic pressure," Helen Clark said.

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