Monday, June 27, 2005

A critical role of Government is the defence of its people. Labour would appear to paying lip servce to advice it is receiving on a clear and present danger - Asian Bird Flu. Cabinet Papers released under the OIA reveal New Zealand is dangerously unprepared for an outbreak of the "expected" bird flu pandemic. Health Minister Annette King was told in January that the risk from bird flu "is immediate" and an outbreak would kill 3,700 New Zealanders. Rather puts the road toll into perspective and the Government's priorities.

The Primary health sector has had no input into the problem, how it would respond and what resources it needs. As the first line of defence is the primary care sector this is a remarkable failure in planning and strategy execution.

The Government has indicated that some of its plans may not be in place until next year. Given there has been 54 deaths since 2003, next year seems rather late.

On top of the planning shambles the Government has apparently ordered only enough of the anti-flu drug, Tamiflu, to cater for 20 per cent of the population. While these are orders, the bulk of the doses have not been delivered; Only sufficient supplies for 1.7 % of the population are actually on hand, according to some reports.

The EU and Australia have taken strenuous efforts to set up 24/7 surveillance centres, primary care plans and dedicated hospitals.

They are taking it seriously - Annette King is hiding (as usual) behind her Health Ministry. She needs to take leadership. Spin won't keep the flu away.

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