Heather Roy on Our Sick, Socialist, Health System

ACT’s Heather Roy is “da bomb” when it comes to understanding our health system. Her logic is irrefutable. It’s just a pity that socialists live by a different system.

“I had the following story relayed to me this week:

At one New Zealand hospital recently there was a deadlock as the number of admissions exceeded the hospital’s ability to absorb new cases. The short stay Accident and Emergency facility had turned into a medium stay facility
and five new cases lay in Accident and Emergency waiting a spare bed in a medical ward. To ease the pressure, patients with medical conditions were “boarded” in surgical wards, but the flow of new admissions didn’t stop and the surgical beds were filling up. Reluctantly the management decided to stop elective (non-urgent) surgery.

News reached a surgeon as he was about to enter the operating theatre that there were no beds. The patient was prepped and the anaesthetist was standing by.

“What do you mean there are no beds” he demanded. “The patient had a bed this morning and came up in a bed. Why can’t he go back to the same bed?”

The ward was full of patients with non-surgical complaints he was told.

“But I can’t cancel this man, he has been put off twice already.”

So the surgeon did the operation in defiance of instructions.

This might explain why one manager famously remarked that managing doctors is like trying to herd cats – and why this is a good thing.

Medical staff are bound to do the best thing for their patients, and have worked hard to battle the winter bulge. When patients are sent home untreated, it is their doctor who has to tell them and bear the brunt of disappointment, rather than the people who count heads on pillows.

Hospitals in Hawke’s Bay, the central North Island and Auckland have been on “red alert” – an indicator that they are overfull – with Wellington, Hutt Hospital and Wairarapa also reported as having no available beds. In the last few weeks, winter ills have caused Palmerston North and Christchurch hospitals to postpone some elective surgery, but they aren’t the only ones. In Hawke’s Bay, two operations were cancelled, and six delayed. Hutt Hospital has cancelled at least one operation, Waikato deferred six and Wellington cancelled 16 – at one point cancelling all elective surgery requiring an overnight stay.

I recently read a press release that aptly described the struggle to cope with acute admissions in the face of winter flus and illnesses.

Winter should not be a crisis. It happens every year and its associated ailments can be life threatening, especially for the elderly and very young. These crises could be avoided if we had a health policy flexible enough to allow for a surge in demand in the winter. It is unacceptable that people are missing out on planned surgery because of bad planning.”

This press release was dated 11 August 1997, and was released by Labour’s then health spokeswoman, Annette King. She was – of course – criticizing the policy of a National government, but nothing much has changed….

Mrs King talked tough in opposition, but her legacy to New Zealand has been no better than the situation she criticized so vocally. If anything, her legacy is worse.”

For the full release go here.

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