Uncap Health Funding

Somewhere, somehow we have become conditioned to the idea of health funding being capped.

We complain often that the healthcare budget is not big enough, but do not ask why it should be capped in the first place. Medical procedures are not something people undergo for fun. Surely everyone who needs medical treatment should get it as soon as possible? Continue reading

Dunedin’s Private Public Hospital?

Dunedin Public Hospital is in line for a much needed $300 million revamp. It has recently been revealed (ODT Sat 11 June) that potential tenderers have been told by the Ministry of Health that a public private partnership (PPP) should be considered.

The question is why? Why would the government get a private corporation to borrow money for the costs of the revamp as well as build it? Then repay this corporation the costs of construction, plus the cost of borrowing the money, plus a generous profit margin for both. Surely it is cheaper for the government to pay for the costs of construction itself. And it would have far greater control over the rebuild, albeit with greater public accountability. Continue reading

Don’t Blame Pharmac

Keytruda is a new immune-oncology drug to treat advanced melanoma released recently by Merck Group at a cost of over $10,000 per month, per patient. Yet again we have a new cancer treatment that is prohibitively expensive released onto the market. Yet again we have clamouring for the government via Pharmac to shell out the extortionate amount of money required to procure the drug.

Of course the government should fund the drug, as it should fund any treatment proven to be effective in treating illness or disease. However the money will have to come out of an already stretched health budget or increased taxes. And it is totally unnecessary. The drug, like most new and effective treatments, is grossly overpriced in relation to the cost of production. Continue reading

Neoliberalism is Nasty

If we learn nothing else from the TPP debacle, it is that Neoliberalism is nasty. And its proponents are hypocrites.

One of the main sticking points in TPP negotiations now is the protection period, that’s right, protection period, on the use of clinical data behind the approval of new biological drugs. One would assume the TPP would be arguing for little or no protection period. After all, it is about removing barriers to trade; we are told so, repeatedly. But no, the proposed 12 year protection period is at least double what most of the signatory countries now have. The TPP is surely not about free trade. Continue reading

Human Rights Versus Corporate Capitalism; People Before Profits

Recently US corporation Turing Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to daraprim, a drug used to treat toxoplasmosis, and promptly announced it was increasing the cost from (US)$13.50 per tablet to $750. The same drug is sold in the UK for around $20 for 30 tablets.

When this news became public knowledge there was outrage. Social media went into overdrive, causing Turing to capitulate and announce that it will be reviewing the pricing of daraprim. By how much remains to be seen.

Turing’s CEO saw the rights to the medication as a market opportunity. He felt the market was prepared to pay a lot more for this drug and there was money to be made. And the role of any good CEO is to make as much money as possible for their company. Or more precisely, the company directors and shareholders. Continue reading

Why Not Free Doctors Visits for All?

It is good to see the National government acknowledging the important role that GPs play in keeping us healthy with the announcement in the 2014 budget that it will provide free doctors visits and waive prescription charges for children under 13 years from July 2015. But why stop there? Why not free doctors visits and prescriptions for everyone? Continue reading

Free GP Visits Should Be On The Agenda This Election

Hospitals are desperate to reduce costs and to free up space, time, and funding for urgent and serious cases. So moves are afoot to transfer more services to GPs.

Community-based health care is a sound policy in most respects. GPs are usually located much closer to where patients live, have the benefit of knowing their patients well, and waiting times for appointments are only a day or so.

However there is the problem of cost. Continue reading

Patents and Intellectual Property Rights: Corporate Power vs The Common Good

One of the Alliance Party’s worst fears around the TPP has been confirmed by the text from the agreement released by Wikileaks recently. The U.S. is pushing for much stricter patent controls.

Patents seem on the face of it, a great idea. They work well at an individual level. You have a bright idea, you patent it so no one else can steal it and you can make a few bob out of it. That’s fine if we’re only talking about new styles of table cutlery or garden hose fittings. But when the discovery is a drug that can cure life threatening diseases or sustainable energy technology that could help to halt global warming, patents are much less benign. Harsh patent laws do not work for the common good of people or the planet. Continue reading

Please Don’t Appeal the Employment Court’s Aged Care Worker Gender Pay Decision

There is no excuse for the appalling wages paid to workers in the aged care and disability sectors. It is blatant discrimination against the – mainly – women who do the work and the people they work with; the elderly and people with disabilities.

At the very least care workers deserve to receive the living wage of $18.40 per hour. But in the long term they should receive a wage commensurate with more male dominated sectors requiring similar skills such as justice and mental health. Continue reading