With unemployment grinding upwards, the economy stagnant, the education system in turmoil, and the exodus to Australia at record levels, the Nats must have thought that at least they had a success story to tell on health. Here’s a press release from back in August:
Big increase in elective surgery and reduction in waiting times
More patients are getting the operations they need and they’re getting them faster, according to the latest information from district health boards.
“An extra 7,500 patients received elective surgery in the last 12 months, meaning 153,000 people got the operations they needed. This is the fourth year of record increases under National,” said Health Minister Tony Ryall.
“Since the change of government in 2008, thirty per cent more patients are getting elective surgery.
Good news – right? Maybe not. Last night, on 3 News:
Children kicked off surgery lists – Labour
Children are dropping off treatment lists as hospitals focus on the Government’s elective surgery targets, Labour says. …
Outside Parliament, Ms Street said clinicians and parents had told her about “some truly sad cases” of complex operations and appointments which had been cancelled. “In one case a solo mum couldn’t even get her four-year-old on a waiting list for a first specialist assessment because the district health board (DHB) has to keep waiting times low to look good for the minister of health,” she said. …
Ms Street says clinicians have told her the situation is demoralising. “They are compelled to make decisions for the wrong reasons – health is always about competing priorities but what we are seeing here are people being asked to make decisions they feel uncomfortable about.”
The Government sets targets for hospitals and 35,000 more elective operations are being carried out each year since National came to power in 2008. Ms Street says they are focusing on simple procedures so they can meet the targets.
This is the untold backstory to the “success” – to ramp up elective surgery something else has to give. It is also yet another example of the Nats micro-managing professionals, like trying to tell Universities what to teach, and ramming national standards down the throats of schools. Medical decisions should be left to medical professionals, not made hostage to the Nats’ desperation to generate at least some numbers that look good.