PRESS RELEASE | Erica Stanford & Chris Bishop | 3 November 2021 -
Health Minister dithered for five months to arrange priority MIQ spots for critical health workers
It is unforgivable that Health Minister Andrew Little took five months to act before arranging priority MIQ spots for critical health workers, say National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford and Covid Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.
“The Health Minister admitted via written questions to both Chris Bishop and myself that he knew in June this year about the problems with MIQ settings not supporting the entry of critical health workers into New Zealand,” says Stanford.
“The Minister knew Delta was on our doorstep, he knew our health system was critically short-staffed, and he knew that offshore healthcare workers were unable to get MIQ spaces.
“Somehow, he still dithered for five full months before announcing MIQ spots would be allocated to critical health workers.
“National has been calling for priority MIQ spots for critical healthcare workers for months. It is utter madness that, in the midst of a global pandemic, the Health Minister knew about the problem and yet took so long to act.
“Any competent Minister would have moved with urgency to demand that MIQ spaces be set aside for healthcare workers earlier this year, when it was clear Delta was coming. Yet the Health Minister seemed to think a five-month delay was acceptable, as we saw him release a self-congratulatory press release on October 20 telling everyone he had fixed the problem.”
The Minister must be held accountable for his failures, says Bishop.
“He failed to ensure we increased our ICU capacity. And now he’s failed to act with any sort of urgency to ensure desperately needed health workers could get into New Zealand.
“Had he acted five months ago, when he knew about the problem, we would have at least 1200 critical health workers already here today to support our Covid response.
“Because the Minister is asleep at the wheel, these workers won’t even be able to start arriving until the end of November, only to then spend two weeks in quarantine. For those nurses that also need to complete their pre-registration course, it won’t be until March 2022 until they can even begin work.
“The Government’s health response has been woeful. They have squandered the valuable time that we gained through the long and hard lockdowns in 2020.
“The Government clearly has no plan when it comes to our Covid response. National’s ‘Opening Up’ plan covers what needs to be done in detail.”