“How can you tell when a politician is lying? His lips are moving.” It’s an old joke (and sexist to boot), but it is governments like this one that give such jokes legs.
Take waiting lists for elective surgery, in this piece from 2013:
Four times a year, Ryall releases figures showing more elective surgeries are being done than ever before and New Zealand’s district health boards (DHBs) are repeatedly hitting waiting list targets.
So he did, all the while knowing that “hitting waiting list targets” really meant fiddling the lists. From the same piece:
Christchurch specialist surgeon Dr Phil Bagshaw said the stream of success stories pumped out of Ryall’s office were “misleading, false Orwellian double-speak”.
The levels of unmet need are growing unmanageable. The increase in surgeries has not even come close to meeting the demand. Unless a patient’s pain is disabling and classified as urgent they no longer get on waiting lists. DHBs are being forced to turn down thousands of needy patients or face financial penalties for not meeting targets.
Ryall could not tell The Press how many Kiwis in need of elective surgery were being rejected from waiting lists because, he said, the ministry was not counting as it was “incredibly difficult to measure”.
(Labour was on the case about this too.)
So – according to Ryall, counting how many Kiwis in need of elective surgery were being rejected from waiting lists is incredibly difficult. How unfortunate for the Nats that research just published in the New Zealand Medical Journal does exactly that. As covered by Stuff:
Patients ‘forgotten’ in wait for surgery
One in three people requiring elective surgery are being turned away from waiting lists to meet Government targets, new research suggests.
The research, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today, shows 36 per cent of more than 1200 hip and knee patients in Northland and Hawke’s Bay referred for a publicly-funded operation by their surgeon were knocked back because they did not meet the “financial threshold”. Many were suffering in severe pain, and were significantly disabled, the study says.
Researchers cautioned that the group was small, and limited to two hospitals in Hastings and Whangarei, but it supports growing claims among some doctors and surgeons that thousands of people who need surgery cannot even make the waiting list, leading to a massive hidden “unmet need”.
The Nats have been manufacturing “good news” stories in health by creating a system that turns away one third of the patients in need. It’s a disgrace. Dig beneath most of their good news statistics and you will no doubt find a similar manipulation – I was about to write manipulation of the figures, but that would be missing the point, it is a manipulation of people.