I asked Health Minister Jonathan Coleman to come on the programme this morning to respond to some of the failings of Waikato Hospital, if you tuned in yesterday, you would have heard an interview with the Waikato DHB.

The DHB was damning of the health minister and said Waikato Hospital had a funding shortfall to the tune of $32.5 million, and it was a life-threatening situation.

And the DHB described a culture of spin coming from the ministry and the minister, and said everyone was under pressure to talk positively about a situation that was anything but. That pressure, the DHB said, comes from the top.

So we spent much of yesterday requesting an interview with Jonathan Coleman.
What did he make of these criticisms? He was entitled to a right of reply and we offered that to him. In the end, a text came back from his press team. It said "thanks, but we're declining."


That's the response from your health minister. He's paid by you, the taxpayer to serve the public, but he won't front on this issue. Again, the arrogance of the minister is blind-siding.

Through the course of the day, a number of you got in touch with me. Here's an example of some of the emails.

"A member of my family was a specialist at Waikato. He said the situation is dire and people are lucky to come out alive. He was constantly worried that someone would die on his watch. It was, he said, a nightmare."

This is the hospital that earlier in the year was forced to treat people outside in ambulances because there were no beds.

Yesterday, another tragic story. A baby who died at Waikato after the mother's caesarean section was bumped. There was only one theatre and an acute case took priority. And on Tuesday, you may remember, Waikato Hospital was forced to again cancel all elective surgery.

And yet the minister won't talk about this. It's one week out from an election, health is polling as the single biggest issue for New Zealanders, and all Jonathan Coleman will say about Waikato is "the key thing is, the hospital is coping".

It's remarkable when you consider the latest poll. Last night, the Colmar Brunton poll has Labour ahead and, with the Greens, they can form a government. No need for Winston.

And National, with New Zealand first, the Maori Party and ACT they still can't get there.


The Government can't afford this level of arrogance.

Coleman is out of touch, and remember this is the man who challenged Bill English for the leadership when John Key resigned. And here he is refusing to front when there is a clear mood for change in this country.

There are many reasons why Waikato is struggling and make no mistake the DHB is accountable too. Have they got the spend 'right'?

But if you're the minister and a hospital is overflowing, and a baby has died, then it is inexcusable to bury your head and get your press secretary to send a text that says "thanks, but we're declining".

The minister hits the 'mute' button.