Bureaucracy cutters call for more bureaucrats

Written By: - Date published: 4:00 pm, January 28th, 2009 - 33 comments
Categories: national/act government, public services - Tags:

Today on Radio NZ, Health Minister Tony Ryall’s razor gang for the health sector was discussed. One of its proponents argued there was bound to be bureaucrats to cut, problem is there is insufficient measurement of productivity. He said Stats NZ should invest in measuring health sector productivity better… Hmm, seems to me he is saying there are currently insufficient bureaucrats to adequately measure what is happening and more are needed to make the system less wasteful.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Anne Tolley is crying that the truancy stats are not comprehensive enough (not that this stopped her from increasing the fines for truancy under urgency last year). Well, stats don’t grow on trees, Anne. Seems to me that if you want stats put together, you’re going to have to employ the bureaucrats to do the job.

After years of trying to demonise public servants as lazy, do-nothing drains on the public purse, National is now finding out that if you want to make good policy leading to better front-line services you need good information. And to do that you need a well-resourced public service.

[Also, Anne, you’re Minister of Education now. So, try to cut out sentences like this one: “Every child that’s not in school is one child too many”. “Every” child that’s not in school is not one child; you mean ‘each’ child.]

33 comments on “Bureaucracy cutters call for more bureaucrats”

  1. randal 1

    who needs bureaucrats when the market will decide?

  2. but who will tell us what the market is saying without bureaucrats? oh noes!

  3. BLiP 3

    Don’t be suckered – this is the thin end of the wedge for the privatisation of the gathering of government statistics

  4. Tim Ellis 4

    SP I doubt that the Minister of Education reads your posts. They might be less hysterical if you didn’t address them to a non-existent audience.

  5. Felix 5

    Yeah but you could print it out for her couldn’t you Tim?

    captcha: cut minimize

  6. Noddy (used to be Dr.No) 6

    Steve, had you considered the possibility that exicting public servants could be assigned for tasks that differ from what they do today? A concept those working in the productive sectors of the economy live with on a day to day basis. Things change, priorities come and go, some things are seen as more important than others… Typical left-leaning thinking – need something done = then just get more bums on seats. As displayed to perfection by the last government…

  7. Tim Ellis 7

    I suppose I could, Felix, and maybe send it freepost to Wellington.

    SP, you are clutching at straws when you try to correct Tolley’s use of English. Fair enough for perfectionists like Robinsod, but you don’t have a whole lot of authority on that count.

  8. Tim. You’ld be surprised who reads these posts. You’ld be surprised what shows up in my inbox in response to some of them.

    Also, addressing Tolley personally is a rhetorical device.

    Now, I know my spelling ain’t always so hot – it’s what they call one of them there learning difficulties – but I know the difference between every and each.

  9. J 9

    “Also, addressing Tolley personally is a rhetorical devise.”

    At least you are acknowledging that she wouldn’t bother to listen to you.

  10. Kerry 10

    Oh Dr No… I do enjoy reading your posts…..its a sure cure for constipation!!!

  11. toad 11

    To be pedantic, it should really be “Each child who’s not in school…”.

  12. tsmithfield 12

    I was reading the Southland Daily Times while on a business trip awhile ago. There was an article that mentioned the staffing for the local health board. It was something like 90 support staff to 30 frontline staff. If that was a private business, it would not survive very long.

  13. Quoth the Raven 13

    tsmithfield – Yes there are absolutely no corporations with a bloated middle management doing work that workers could do themselves. You live in a fantasy world tsmithfield.

  14. Pascal's bookie 14

    Tsmithie, how’d they define frontline staff?

    That ‘support staff’ thing makes me suspicious that people like cleaners, orderlies, reception, kitchen staff and the like are being referred to as being support for the medical staff. That’s ok, but it’s not bloated management.

  15. tsmithfield 15

    Quoth said “Yes there are absolutely no corporations with a bloated middle management doing work that workers could do themselves.”

    Pascal: “I am sure there are. Two wrongs don’t make a right though.
    That ‘support staff’ thing makes me suspicious that people like cleaners, orderlies, reception, kitchen staff and the like are being referred to as being support for the medical staff.”

    I am sure that is the case. However, in a private corporation there is also need for such things. However, it would be rare to find a corporation where administrative staff outweighed productive staff three to one.

  16. tsmithfield 16

    Sorry, some of my posts seem to be screwing up for some reason. The post above should have read:

    Quoth said “Yes there are absolutely no corporations with a bloated middle management doing work that workers could do themselves.’

    I am sure there are. Two wrongs don’t make a right though.

    Pascal: “That ‘support staff’ thing makes me suspicious that people like cleaners, orderlies, reception, kitchen staff and the like are being referred to as being support for the medical staff.’

    I am sure that is the case. However, in a private corporation there is also need for such things. However, it would be rare to find a corporation where administrative staff outweighed productive staff three to one.

  17. Janet 17

    Tony Ryall has been on Campbell tonight promising to create residential care facilities for anorexics, and rubbishing the last government’s work in the area. Considering that anorexia is one of the hardest illness to treat and is extremely intensive and expensive, it will be interesting to see just what happens.

  18. Felix 18

    However, it would be rare to find a corporation where administrative staff outweighed productive staff three to one

    That’s a rather meaningless distinction unless you define the difference between “productive staff” and “administrative staff”.

  19. Tim Ellis 19

    Janet wrote:

    Tony Ryall has been on Campbell tonight promising to create residential care facilities for anorexics, and rubbishing the last government’s work in the area. Considering that anorexia is one of the hardest illness to treat and is extremely intensive and expensive, it will be interesting to see just what happens.

    I watched the Campbell clip as well, Janet. Ryall pointed out that the Health Ministry has been working on this for the last ten years, with no results. Currently DHBs send people to Australia for treatment, at a cost of $750 a night.

    Sounds like it could be done much more efficiently in New Zealand.

  20. tsmithfield 20

    Felix “That’s a rather meaningless distinction unless you define the difference between “productive staff’ and “administrative staff’.”

    Productive staff= people providing direct health care to patients (doctors, nurses, surgeons, specialists etc)

    Administrative staff= everyone else.

    Surely it is a good thing to try and maximise the former and minimise the latter so long as the optimal ratio is achieved for providing the very best health care possible to New Zealanders.

    That being the case, why is it an issue that a government would investigate the efficiency of the health system? Surely they would be negligent if they did not do so. Would there be such an issue on this site if a Labour governement did exactly what National is now doing?

  21. @ work 21

    One might suggest the “productive” staff might not stay productive for very long without the help of the administrative staff.

    On positive note it is very commendable of Ryall to put some money into anorexia treatment, there are some very good anorexia services here, but such limited places in them.

  22. higherstandard 22

    “One might suggest the “productive’ staff might not stay productive for very long without the help of the administrative staff.”

    Yes one might ….. one might also suggest exactly the opposite.

  23. Stephen 23

    A concept those working in the productive sectors of the economy live with on a day to day basis. Things change, priorities come and go, some things are seen as more important than others

    No one else has addressed this, but it’s exactly what I was thinking as I read the post. I will go no further as I really don’t have much a clue what Stats NZ gathers data on at the moment.

  24. @ work 24

    higherstandard
    January 29, 2009 at 9:17 am
    “One might suggest the “productive’ staff might not stay productive for very long without the help of the administrative staff.’

    Yes one might .. one might also suggest exactly the opposite.

    The hospitals would run better if all the doctors did an hour of scrubbing toilets and cleaning windows after thier shifts? I’m sure that would go down great.

    There could be a discussion on the finer points of the structure of staff in hospitals, but alarmist headlines giving ratios of medical staff to non medical staff and labeling all the non medical staff “useless bureaucrats” is not a particularly rational way to proceed. Are there any specific jobs in the health system that in your opinion are not required? Or do you just want a less alarmist headline?

  25. tsmithfield 25

    @work: “One might suggest the “productive’ staff might not stay productive for very long without the help of the administrative staff.”

    Couldn’t agree more. In my previous post, I suggested the staffing should be at the optimum ratio of productive to administrative to provide the most effective service possible to taxpayers. Do you disagree with this sentiment? Do you think we have the optimum ratio now?

  26. @ work 26

    In the most part I agree with you, I’m not sure a ratio is the best way to look at it though. We should look to maximise the numbers of medical staff and have an appropriate number of administrative staff to cope with the rest of the goings on. Basically not everything in a hospital is in proportion to the number of medical staff working there (security and clearners for example would depend on the size of the building not the number of medical staff inside it). But yes I do agree with you.

    I have absolutely no problem with a review of hospitals ect, I’m just wary of peolpe saying in general we need less staff in hospitals.

  27. tsmithfield 27

    @work: “But yes I do agree with you.

    I have absolutely no problem with a review of hospitals ect, I’m just wary of peolpe saying in general we need less staff in hospitals.”

    Thanks for that @work. I would actually have no problem with a bipartisan approach to health. What really annoys me is the constant restructuring of health that occurs each time there is a change of government. Health becomes a political football that must have costed taxpayers billions in restructuring costs over the years. It would seem sensible and in the best interests of taxpayers to have an agreed strategy between the parties, given that governments do tend to change from time to time whether we like it or not.

  28. @ work 28

    Indeed, Health really is one of those political football things, health, education and prisons, the perennial talk back topics. Health of course has the advantage that unlike prisons people aren’t mortified every time there’s an increase in funding. Were also lucky that the sharp end of funding, the “who lives and who dies’ decisions, generally don’t have a huge deal of fuss made about them. I suspect though the public doesn’t realize how expensive things get at that top end, how much of the health budget is spent on a very few number of people.

    Really there shouldn’t need to be a lot of political interference in it, really what should be guiding them is international best practice in medicine and cost effective decisions within a set budget. This doesn’t leave much room for political interference. In ministries like Health, Corrections, Education, where their roll is quite focused (Compared to say MFaT, or MED, where work is more general, covering a range of different programs), there is a lot of science and other literature on the topic, which should really take precedence over politics.

    It would be nice to see a move towards less scope for political interference in some ministries, or at least a requirement that ministers have a bloody good reason for over riding the advice of their advisors. Mainly so that when the government does change, the operation of the health system should remain largely unchanged.

  29. HS. I’m betting you have at least as many administrative staff as medical staff in your private practice (don’t forget to include cleaners etc, they are included in the numers of adminstrators National harps on about).

    I’m betting you don’t waste any more of your highly valuable time doing admin tasks than you have to when you could be doing the work you are trained for.

  30. higherstandard 30

    at work

    For ‘administrative” staff read ‘management” I and I’m sure virtually everyone has no issue with support staff within the DHBs.

    The administrative staff however tend to come up with brilliant plans such as this.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10553187

    and then spend their time on such cak as this

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/4830782a11.html

    The health system would be better off spending the money we waste with these buffoons on support and medical staff.

    Edit

    Steve – I think I’ve defined my opinion of the relative merit of support and administrative staff above. I don’t think you are so naive to suggest there’s not wastage within Vote Health.

    and Edit again at work of course their should be political interference in health it is one of the governments largest cost centres……. people working in the sector just wish it was useful political interference as the current idiots are probably going to be just as moronic as the last several Ministers of health.

    • I’m not suggesting there’s no waste. There’s waste in any large system.

      Re your definition of admin staff – that’s not the one that National its allies have used to hype the numbers – they’ve counted any non-medicial staff

  31. hmm. we have a reply function for comments in the backend now, but it never seems to work.

    Anyhoo. HS. Your definition of admin staff is all well and good but when National and its allies are hyping the number of admin staff they are counting all non-medicial staff.

  32. Felix 32

    tsmithfield,

    The definitions are crucial here and hs’s is substantially different from yours. For example where do you place a cleaner in your model? An orderly? A hospital dietitian? The person who fixes the machine that goes “bing”?

    I’m not disputing that things should be more efficient and I don’t have the experience or specific knowledge of the industry that others do, but if we use numbers to make a point we must be clear what those numbers represent if the discussion is to be of any use.

    It seems that hs is talking about too many managers vs medical staff, which is quite different to your distinction of medical / non-medical staff.

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