Issues were in the past, Labour says

By Simon Hendery

Labour Party health spokeswoman, Annette King. Photo / Ben Fraser
Labour Party health spokeswoman, Annette King. Photo / Ben Fraser

Labour's health spokeswoman, Annette King, says "time has moved on" since her leader, David Cunliffe, sacked the Hawke's Bay DHB when he was health minister in 2008.

Ms King was on the campaign trail in Hawke's Bay yesterday and said as a regular visitor to the region she had not picked up any lingering resentment towards Labour as a result of the sacking.

At the time, Mr Cunliffe described the board - which was then headed by current DHB chairman Kevin Atkinson - as a "nasty little nest of self-perpetuating provincial elites".

"Time has moved on. The decision was made at the time based on the circumstances of the time," Ms King said yesterday.

She said the region's focus should be what had happened to health services under the subsequent National government.

"If people still have some resentment at the sacking of the board I think they'd be better off being resentful of being denied services and being put on long waiting lists.

I'm not blaming the DHB for this at all - they can only do what they can with the money they've got - but I've had plenty of examples out of Hawke's Bay of people who have been bumped off lists or haven't even got on lists."

She said she got on well with Mr Atkinson, who she initially appointed as chairman when she was health minister.

Labour's Tukituki candidate, Anna Lorck, whose marketing and public relations company advised the board at the time of the sacking, also said the region had moved on.

"I think the people of Hawke's Bay have well and truly moved on from that. We've got to deal with what's happening right now - and that's the DHB having to work under a really tight budget."

Ms King, Ms Lorck and Labour's Napier candidate, Stuart Nash met with DHB chief executive Kevin Snee and other staff, and toured health facilities in Napier and Hastings yesterday. One stop was Napier mental health facility Jacaranda House which the DHB has announced it will close, a move Mr Nash has campaigned against.

"Until the DHB can tell us what the actual [replacement] options are, I'm going to continue to go very hard to stand up for the people of Jacaranda House," he said.

He has also been campaigning against a DHB proposal to stop funding after-hours urgent nursing service in Napier, a move which will be subject to consultation.

"What I'm going to absolutely make sure is that the consultation is robust, that as many Napier people as possible have the ability to voice their concerns and the DHB knows exactly what the people of Napier want," he said.

The campaign trip also included a visit to Hastings Health Centre to discuss a district health nursing trial.

Ms King said the health sector was excited by Labour's policy which includes making GP visits and prescriptions free for people 65 and over, and for pregnant women.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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