Since Labour came into power, the number of people in Northland waiting more than four months to see a specialist has ballooned to 3,219 people.
When National handed over the Government, that list had only 287 people waiting.
Having 3,219 (March 2022) people in Northland on that list is disappointing, because four months, or possibly more, is a very long time for people to wait to have their diagnosis confirmed, let alone to begin managing it.
Further scrutiny of the list shows 562 are orthopaedic appointments which are likely to include painful hips and knees.
One argument the Government uses to explain these wait times is the effect of Covid. However before Covid arrived in New Zealand, the Northland waitlist was already over 2,000 people.
This increase of people on a waitlist is not due to Covid, but mismanagement by the Labour Government.
So, what are they doing about it? Their big solution was to create a 'high-powered' task-force, who won't deliver a report with suggestions on how to fix the issue until September this year. Yet another announcement of an announcement, and a further four months of waiting.
In my opinion, this is lazy and late when the problem has been escalating nearly every month for the past five years. Keeping waitlists down is a core job for a competent health minister and in throwing a hospital pass to a working group, or a 'high powered task-force', Andrew Little is abdicating his responsibility.
However, a growing waitlist to see a specialist is not the only situation happening in the health sector. Nationwide, there are longer Emergency Department wait times and hospital wards becoming overwhelmed in Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington, not to mention the whole Hutt Valley DHB hospital evacuating due to seismic risks.
All of this happening, and yet we are three weeks from the biggest health restructure upheaval in the past 20 years.
If the health minister can't do his core job of delivering health services to New Zealanders on time, how can New Zealanders trust him with a multi-billion dollar restructure?
Unfortunately, this is what happens when anideologically-driven Minister puts all his focus and money on a health restructure in the middle of a global pandemic.
Maybe if he valued and developed the health workforce instead of being distracted by a health restructure, the outlook might not be so daunting.
I believe solutions to wait times involves a mix of new models of care and funding along with targets, accountability and a deep engagement with clinicians.
The chickens are coming home to roost for waiting lists. Let's be patient and respectful of our health workforce as we hang on for dear life to make the best of this that we possibly can.