Was in Parliament yesterday for Jackie Blue’s valedictory speech. It was a nice reminder that you can achieve things in Parliament as a List MP. Some extracts:
While I was a new MP in 2005, Herceptin became high-profile, with many countries funding a 12-month course for a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. It was being used for treatment in metastatic breast cancer in New Zealand, but the trials were showing that it was reducing death in early stage, newly diagnosed breast cancer. I am grateful that Tony gave me the opportunity to advocate for 12-months’ Herceptin funding for women with breast cancer in New Zealand. I was extraordinarily proud when John Key made this a National Party election promise in 2008. One of the most marvellous memories from my time in Parliament was shortly after the November 2008 election, when I joined Tony, who was the new Minister of Health , and key officials from the Ministry of Health and Pharmac. The meeting was to work through the logistics of ensuring that the women who needed Herceptin had access to it by Christmas 2008. The timing was very tight, but it was a case of “Yes, Minister.” at its very best. Everyone worked together to ensure that the policy rolled out smoothly. With results of recent trials, time has proved that funding 12 months’ Herceptin was the right decision. Twelve months is considered to be the international gold standard.
A decision that has helped save lives.
Early in 2008 I met with a group of refugee and migrant doctors who were meeting regularly at the Auckland Regional Migrant Service , or ARMS, in Mount Roskill. The group had been struggling to get registration with the New Zealand Medical Council . They were frustrated that we did not have a bridging programme like Australia had. Over several years they had made successive approaches to health Ministers without making any traction. They were meeting regularly at the Auckland Regional Migrant Service to study and to support each other, and I would like to acknowledge the amazing support that Dr Mary Dawson and Anna Fyfe-Rahal from the service have been providing to this group. Without their support and encouragement, I am quite sure that this group would have disbanded long ago. My heart went out to these doctors. After the election I re-established contact with the group and began to meet with them each month. I went back to Tony Ryall and I said that we simply had to do something for them. Tony was very supportive and agreed that I could start investigating options, and I began discussions with the Ministry of Health and the Medical Council. However, when Professor Des Gorman, chair of Health Workforce New Zealand, got involved in the latter part of 2009, the project developed a momentum all of its own. The NZREX preparation placement programme began in 2011 and has been hugely successful, with 33 out of 38 migrant doctors passing the Medical Council registration exam. This programme has been truly life changing for those doctors and their families.
Stuff like this often flies below the media radar.
It has been the work of these committees that has left me utterly convinced that society must back its women and girls. Women make up one-half of the world’s human capital. No society can achieve its full potential when half the population is denied the opportunity to achieve theirs. Empowering and educating women and girls is fundamental to succeeding and prospering in the ever more competitive world. This is particularly true in developing countries but it is also absolutely relevant in developed countries like New Zealand. As women progress, everyone in society progresses, including men and boys. Tapping into the potential of women and girls is not only the right thing; it is the smart thing. Sexual reproductive health and rights and education go hand in hand. When women have the opportunity to control their fertility and have access to reproductive health services they are more likely to stay in education, get employment, and provide for their family. Education leads to more choices and opportunities.