Monday, March 07, 2016

A waiting list by another name

When National was in opposition, it rightly attacked the then-Labour government over the size of hospital waiting lists. People were suffering in pain, sometimes for years, because DHB's were not meeting patient needs. When National became government, they announced they would fix this by setting targets for waiting lists. And they did so - by the simple expedient of stopping people from getting on them in the first place:

More than 5300 people missed out on the surgery they needed, within a three month period last year, because there wasn't enough resources to do it.

It's the first release of Government figures measuring the surgical need that was going unmet, by hospitals stretched to capacity and struggling to keep up.

And while it was well down on estimates of about 170,000 annually by some Government critics, Health Ministry officials warn the figures could get worse before they get better.

Rather than solving the problem, National has simply hidden it. And meanwhile, people are still suffering. Its a perfect example of PR as policy, with the added twist of dishonesty and secrecy as well. As for how they'll "solve" it, I expect they'll pull the same trick again and simply move it back another step. Waiting lists were banished by requiring specialist referrals. And the hidden waiting list will be banished by making it more difficult to get those referrals. People will still be left to suffer, but their suffering won't be reflected in any statistics, so it officially won't exist. And so the government will get to pretend that their systematically underfunded health system is coping for another few years. A PR win while doing nothing.

The real solution, of course, is to fund the health system so that it can give everyone the care they need. But National won't do that because it would mean less money for them to give away to the rich as tax cuts in 2017. Another perfect example of their priorities.