Ian Powell writes:
When he was elected leader of the Labour Party following the 2014 election defeat, the National Party in government detected something in Andrew Little’s personality, leading him to be nicknamed “Angry Andy”.
But if “Angry Andy” was a bit off then, it is certainly applicable today as Little, now Health Minister, continues to deny the obvious: that there is a crisis in the health system.
When you have the former boss of a health union saying this, you know things are not good.
The Health Minister points to winter flu. But there are two knowns about winter flu. First, winter flu happens every winter. Second, each winter flu is usually more severe than the previous one.
The cumulative pressure and expressions of alarm for both patient and staff safety from those at the frontline and their representative bodies, on the impact of the workforce crisis, have taken their toll on the health minister. He is now lashing out, making a possum caught in the headlights look cool, calm and collected.
In a low blow, in May, Little derogatorily referred to the “nominal leaders” of primary care for allegedly failing to see what a different and better health system looks like. It was clear from the context of his attack that he was referring to representatives of general practices.
This was followed by an insulting criticism of rural general practices. These indispensable practices are vulnerable because their small size and isolation compounds the GP shortage.
Labour has never liked GPs much because they are private practitioners with partial public funding. I have no doubt that part of the health reforms motivation is to allow them to try and nationalise GPs and make them all staff, like those in hospitals.
Moving on, Minister Little then got personal with Waikato emergency medicine specialist Dr John Bonning (also President of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine and deputy chair of the Council of Medical Colleges) attacking him for embellishing the workforce crisis in hospitals. In fact, it is a characteristic of Dr Bonning to understate rather than overstate.
A long list of health professionals that Andy has got angry at.
Little’s poor performance has made him a ministerial liability. A big factor behind this is his failure to recognise the importance of relationships in public health systems.
Relationships are critical in almost all systems.
This has led him to undermine workforce trust and confidence in the Government’s leadership of the health system.
Powell is effectively saying Little is doing a worst job than any other Health Minister since he started in 1989. So he is saying that Little is doing worse than Simon Upton, Jenny Shipley, Bill English, Pete Hodgson, David Cunliffe, Jonathan Coleman and David Clark!