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Cause and Effects

April 13, 2014

I’m sure Peter Dunne will say it’s just a coincidence but I find the timing of this afternoon’s media articles about medical professionals being asked to report adverse effects of legal highs quite intriguing.

Three days ago I asked the following written questions:

How many reports of adverse reactions, if any, have been made to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring and the National Poisons Centre for each psychoactive product with interim approval under the Psychoactive Substances Act in each month since the Act commenced, and what reactions have been reported for each such product?

How many reports of adverse reactions, if any, have been made to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring and the National Poisons Centre for non-approved psychoactive products in each month since the Psychoactive Substances Act commenced, how many were there for each product and what reactions have been reported for each product?

How has information about psychoactive products, their effects and potential reactions been communicated with the public, if at all; please identify specific projects, if any, who is responsible for each project, and the budget for each project?

How, if at all, has information about how to make reports of adverse reactions to psychoactive products been made available to the public; please identify specific projects, if any, who is responsible for each project, and the budget for each project?

The answers are not due until April 22.

Today Peter Dunne is out making sure people know that they can make reports of adverse reactions and that health professionals should be doing it too. Good move but why not before now?

Cowardly National Don’t Front For The Tough Stuff

March 21, 2014

Over the last two days I have participated in two political panels and one community forum with my Associate Health hat on. The topics were alcohol, drug reform and legal highs.

Being an elected representative means you have to front up to everybody. Its nice when you’re in a room filled with people who agree with you. Then there are the days it feels like everyone is against you. That’s the job and we should all be ready to ride the highs and lows of public life. That’s what we get paid for.

It’s fair to say that over the three events I’ve experienced the complete set of responses from enthusiastic support to nods of unexcited approval to forthright opposition. I’ve been told it’s great to have someone like me in Parliament. I’ve been told our policy needs more punch. I’ve been told I’m stupid and don’t know what I’m talking about.

But while I’ve been fronting up to the diverse audiences ready to discuss policy and listen to alternative points of view not a single National MP has showed up at any of these events. Not one. They were invited. They were given plenty of time to find a replacement if the appropriate MP couldn’t be there but none had the guts to show up.

These are difficult subjects where the evidence is often at odds with public opinion. The issues are challenging. Opinions are strongly held and hard to change. People don’t hold back if they think you’re doing it wrong. But that doesn’t mean we should hide away. It’s our job to listen to everyone. I find it invigorating talking to people who disagree with me. It tests my knowledge, my experience and my opinion. If I can’t provide a strong argument in favour of my position I need to think about why that is. Even when I broadly disagree with someone there might be something in what they say that I can learn from.

But I’d never know if I didn’t show up.

By being too scared to face people who hold strong views on challenging issues, National is ignoring anyone who disagrees with their point of view. Only hanging out with sycophants makes for good photo-ops but it makes you out-of-touch with the rest of the population.

My message to National: Harden up and start listening.

Plain Packaging a Step Closer

February 11, 2014

Tonight Parliament debated plain packaging of tobacco. The bill to introduce plain packaging received support from all parties except for ACT and has been referred to the Health Select Committee for public consultation.

Legislating to protect and promote the health of our citizens is our nation’s sovereign right. In the least few days the tobacco industry and other vested interests have threatened New Zealand with litigation if we go ahead with this move.

We must be vigilant and guard against anything that would diminish our sovereign right to act in the best interests of our citizens. That is why today, Labour leader David Cunliffe called on the Government to publish the full negotiated text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement at least two weeks prior to signing to ensure full public scrutiny.

Sadly the Government refused. That cold put plain packaging in jeopardy. We hope the Government will change its mind and be more up front with New Zealanders about what is in the TPPA.

Waitangi Day in the Manawatu Sun

February 6, 2014
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A huge THANK YOU to Te Manawa and everyone involved in organising a brilliant day for everyone to enjoy.

ACC and Health System Fail Elderly Earthquake Victim

January 20, 2014

A very sad article in The Press today.

Rewa Eves used to be fiercely independent, but now she feels like “a useless old lady”.

The 78-year-old New Brighton woman struggles to dress herself. She can no longer hang out her washing and has to rely on family for help.

She said she had endured constant pain since falling in her garden during the magnitude 5.9 aftershock in June 2011, damaging both shoulders and her right knee.

Even sleeping has become difficult.


ACC, however, has refused to pay for the surgery she needs to fix her shoulders.

“They told me it’s a pre-existing condition . . . and apparently I left it too long after the fall to apply, but I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.”

This has all the hallmarks of the kind of treatment people get from ACC under National. As I said yesterday, we now know it is a deliberate policy to make life as difficult as possible on ACC so that more people are deterred from making claims. And the “pre-existing condition” excuse is a classic. Labour has repeatedly asked for information about how often this excuse is used to decline treatment but ACC refuses to say. They know it will look bad for National if the information is ever revealed.

Dr Stephen Parkinson, an orthopaedic surgeon who works in both the public and private health sectors, wrote to Eves’ GP saying it was unfortunate ACC had declined her application.

“She clearly has a reported earthquake-related accident . . . where she was thrown heavily on to both outstretched arms.

“Her shoulders were completely normal prior to this event with no previous history of pain or injury to her shoulders,” he wrote.

But ACC hand-picks the “experts” who access people’s claims. You can guarantee is was one of these people who decided it was a “pre-existing” condition.

Notes from the independent review showed Eves had not lodged an appeal within the required time-frame of three months.

Eves’ GP, Kim Burgess, had provided written evidence and said her patient had been distressed since the earthquakes and had found it difficult to get around New Brighton.

Eves’ review representative, Stevan Winter, said she had been overwhelmed by the ACC process and confused because of “age-related factors and the number of medical providers who treated her”, including the Redwood Physio, a chiropractor, Parkinson and Burgess.

The reviewer did not believe these were good enough reasons for the delay.

ACC has become more callous under National.

The Canterbury District Health Board was unable to accept her on to the orthopaedic surgery waiting list.

A letter from the board’s orthopaedic department said although it was “clear [Eves] will benefit from surgery”, the board was unable to provide it.

It said public hospitals could only accept patients on to the waiting list if surgery could be provided within six months.

That’s how Tony Ryall keeps his waiting list numbers looking so good.