Last week saw the end of District Health Boards and their replacement by Health New
Zealand and the Māori Health Authority.
This is the most significant reform of the New Zealand health system since the 20 DHBs were established in 2000.
It always seemed overly bureaucratic to have 20 separate organisations for a population of just five million, with 20 well-remunerated CEOs, 20 boards and a diversity of policies on areas like procurement which must have incurred avoidable costs.
Hardly a day seems to go by when we don't hear of some poor soul who has had a negative experience with some kind of surgery gone awry or a rare illness misidentified. I suspect that there is a breed of journalist that exists to run down and feast on such misfortune.
However, I do not, as a recent consumer, support the label of "crisis" that seems to be
repeatedly attached to New Zealand's health system.
When I contracted Covid19 three months ago, the pandemic management system worked
My bout of Covid, thanks to the timely expert attention I got, was no worse than a mild cold.
Three weeks ago, I again interfaced with the health system when I suffered chest pain.
My doctor made time to see me immediately, and when my heart was fine according to the EEG device prescribed me with painkillers and told me to come back if the condition
By noon the following day, the pain became unbearable, and I followed my doctor's advice and went for a chest X-ray.
When that came back clear I was sent to the local hospital emergency department.
I was admitted without delay and given stronger painkillers while doctors – who attended to me immediately - worked out that I had non-life threatening but excruciating inflammation around the breastbone (costochondritis).
By the following day their diagnosis was confirmed, and an intravenous dose of a powerful anti-inflammatory (prednisone) cleared up the condition within minutes.
At all times I was very well treated and there was no sign that the health system I encountered was under any kind of stress.
Coming under stress, however, is National Party Leader Chris Luxon.
Defending one of its very safest seats in the Tauranga by-election, National would have felt the outcome disappointing.
The turnout, at 40 per cent, was low even for a by-election and suggested there was little enthusiasm for either the candidate or Mr Luxon.
Labour's 25 per cent of the vote was well above its long-term average in the electorate and amounts to a good performance from Jan Tinetti.
The US Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade, a nearly 50-year old ruling which effectively legalised the right of a woman in the US to control her own fertility via abortion in that country, had fascinating knock-on consequences for New Zealand politics where health matters in their broadest sense were already under the spotlight.
Luxon belongs to the minority of voters who are opposed to a women's right to choose, and he sits at the extreme end of the anti-choice spectrum having agreed with a journalist's statement in 2021 that abortion equates to murder.
Luxon cannot walk away from his stated beliefs without career-ending consequences but
equally he can't be seen to want to overturn the New Zealand law on abortion, which research shows repeatedly is supported by more than two-thirds of the population.
This puts him on a tightrope where he's wobbling badly.
One of his fellow conservatives on the issue, National MP Simon O'Connor, posted an
endorsement of the US Supreme Court decision on social media.
This posting was quickly removed but the damage was done.
The first issue was whether Luxon was involved in the removal of O'Connor's posting.
Luxon said he had directed the removal of the posting, though O'Connor contradicted this, saying he'd done it of his own accord.
Luxon then said changes to the current abortion law are not National Party policy.
This statement is meaningless, given the long-established reality that abortion is a conscience issue for National MPs, meaning any one of the conservative phalanx that now dominates the National Party caucus can initiate any change they like any time.
These events highlight the parlous state of the National Party's once strong liberal wing.
With people like John Key, Amy Adams, Paula Bennett and Nicki Kaye gone, the religious Right now dominates the party's caucus and, increasingly, its thinking.
This grouping, known as the "Taliban" to the dwindling group of liberals in National's caucus, originate in National's MP selection system which allows and even encourages local takeovers by religious groupings.
Luxon may say the abortion law won't change but so did at least two of the US Supreme Court Justices who voted for change when asked during their Senate interviews.
Mike Williams grew up in Hawke's Bay. He is chief executive of the NZ Howard League and a former Labour Party president. All opinions are his and not those of Hawke's Bay Today.