Live: Govt criticised over flu vaccine 'debacle', Covid funding

The roll-out of the flu vaccine, which saw doctors go without for up to 10 days, has been described as a "debacle" and "total disaster" by the NZ Medical Association.

And the block of second tranche of funding to GPs could see some practices and doctors without work by next week, the association's chair Kate Baddock warned the Epidemic Response Committee today.

The NZ Medical Association, Aged Care Association, Pharmacy Guild, Disability Support Network, Dental Association and epidemiologist Professor David Skegg  were making submissions to the committee, which assesses the Government's response to the coronavirus. The committee is chaired by Opposition leader Simon Bridges. 

Dr Kate Baddock. Photo: RNZ
Dr Kate Baddock. Photo: RNZ
Dr Kate Baddock said the issues with the roll-out of flu vaccine meant her practice went without for 10 days while they had 4000 vulnerable people they needed to vaccinate.

"The flu vaccine was a complete debacle - there's absolutely no doubt about that," she told the committee.

And news that Cabinet had stopped another tranche of funding to keep GPs will have an immediate impact on practices, she said, with some GPs who are going to be out of work by the end of the week.

"We are very much hand to mouth in terms of cash flow ... when that cash no longer flows because we have delayed payments because of virtual consultations ... that cashflow which funds out staffing requirements is just not there."

She said the ministry, DHBs and minister all agreed on the funding before lockdown but "have reneged on that expectation".

The  New Zealand Herald yesterday revealed the second half of a $22 million funding package had been stopped by Cabinet but many GPs were depending on that money and had already spent it on overheads.

Baddock said they needed that decision reversed by the end of the week or practices and doctors would be out of work. The GP also described the scramble to move almost all face-to-face appointments online as "hectic" and "frantic".

"It was an incredible feat that they've been able to achieve."

DENTAL SECTOR IN 'DIRE STATE'

Close to 20,000 Kiwis are missing out on dental care every day because of the lockdown and at least one person is in intensive care due to a life-threatening infection, the committee was told.

Dr Katie Ayers, president of the New Zealand Dental Association, said she was now aware of at least one person currently in intensive care for the management of life-threatening dental infections.

She said the profession was in a "dire state" due to a lack of government planning, support and virtually no available PPE.

"The dental profession has been telling Government and the public for weeks about continued access issues around the mandatory requirements and quantities of PPE.

"However, the extreme uncertainty for us is a lack of ready guidelines setting out what dental treatment should look like at each Alert level. This means that planning is unable to begin. There is currently no indication when dental practices will be able to reopen and a workforce of over 10,000 is essentially sitting without work.

"Dentists are essential primary health care workers as they are frontline and there is a looming public health crisis, with one out of eight practices already having laid off staff and up to 45% currently being forced to consider doing the same.

AGED CARE CALLS FOR TESTING, PPE CONCERNS 

Chief executive of the New Zealand Aged Care Association, Simon Wallace, told the committee it "seems crazy" that they can't test 700 people being admitted to rest homes each week when there's capacity to do so.

People being admitted might not have a sniffle or a sore throat, but they have many underlying health conditions and were at risk.

"If the likelihood is low but the severity is high like it is with Covid 19 why would you not test?," Wallace asked.

"We just don't understand the rationale for not testing."

He said aged care facilities had to agitate DHBs to get personal protective equipment (PPE) at the start of the crisis and while the situation had improved greatly, there were still pockets still struggling to get the supply they need.

Facilities shouldn't still have to quibble with health boards to get PPE, he said.

Chair of the committee, Opposition leader Simon Bridges, said about the representatives: "All of these organisations have faced difficulties during the lockdown, particularly when it comes to accessing to PPE."

Also on the committee is National party health spokesman Michael Woodhouse, who has also been critical of the Government's handling of PPE and has said it was too slow to act.

The Auditor-General yesterday announced a review into the Ministry of Health's distribution of PPE after mounting frustrations from healthcare workers on the frontline despite reassurances from top level officials.

The review will assess the controls over procurement, distribution to district health boards and other agencies and stock levels. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said he welcomed the review and any recommendations it may have.

There were no new coronavirus cases in the Southern District Health Board area for the third day in a row  yesterday. However, the number of confirmed and probable cases remained at 216 - still the highest number of all DHBs. Nationally, 13 people  have died.

 

- NZ Herald and RNZ

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