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Lack of ventilators left Otago and Southland unprepared for Delta

September 10, 2021 Share

MP for Southland Joseph Mooney says the Minister of Health must ensure Southland and Otago are prepared for the possibility of a community outbreak of Covid-19 following two lucky escapes.

After making extensive enquiries about the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) catchment’s readiness to respond to a community outbreak, Mooney was extremely disappointed when Health Minister Andrew Little told him prior to the recent Level 4 Lockdown that SDHB hospitals had access to just 20 ventilators.

What was even more concerning was that the Ministry of Health didn’t know which hospitals had each of the ventilators.

“Kiwis watched as the Delta variant spread rapidly across Australia,” Mooney says.
“Southland Hospital was pushed to the brink by the intensive care of just two sailors with Covid at the beginning of August.”

“It is incredibly disappointing that despite those warning signs, the Ministry of Health didn’t even know where our region’s ventilators were.”

“As it turned out, there were just 20 of them to cover the SDHB’s massive catchment area with a population of around 350,000 people.”

“This is an extraordinary failure of governance.”

“Astonishingly, little had changed in the 18 months since last year’s Level 4 Lockdown.’

“Our communities have made incredible sacrifices to keep COVID out through last year’s lockdown periods.”

“That was necessary because our health system did not have the resources to cope and we all accepted that.”

“However the failure to stock southern hospitals with more ventilators in the 18 months that followed is a case of negligence.”

“There is no excuse for the Ministry of Health not to have been working with the SDHB to properly stock its hospitals with a critical tool that doctors and nurses need to use to care for seriously ill Covid patients.”

“We weren’t prepared for the last year’s nationwide lockdown, but there is no good reason for being so unprepared for the lockdown this August.”

Minister Little has revealed in a reply to a recent Parliamentary Written Question that the SDBH has now increased its stock of ventilators since Mooney first starting asking questions.

The SDHB now has 47 ventilators, with 38 in Dunedin ICU, 8 in Southland ICU and one in a fixed-wing aircraft.

Mooney says he is pleased to see an increase in the number of ventilators since he first started asking questions and that the Minister and the Ministry of Health now knows where the ventilators are.

However, Mooney would like to see a bigger commitment made to prepare the southern region adequately for the possibility of any future community outbreak.

That means addressing serious staffing shortfalls, as well as increasing ventilator stocks further and having the necessary equipment and supplies in SDHB hospitals.

“Our region desperately needs more doctors and nurses, we have seriously overworked staff and we have migrant staff who have been separated from their children for over 18 months because there is no space for them in MIQ.”

“The Government needs to do everything it can to look after the doctors and nurses in New Zealand, as well as making sure we can get as many as possible through our border to ensure our health system is adequately staffed in the event of another outbreak.”

Mooney says he would like to thank all healthcare workers in the southern region for working so hard and diligently to care for our community through this challenging time.

Central Otago News & Ensign Columns - September

September 09, 2021 Share

Check out my recent columns in both the Central Otago News and The Ensign.


Central Otago News column - published September 9.

Health Of River Is Vital


Cool heads and a common›sense approach must prevail as the Central Otago region faces a wave of issues relating to water.

Late last month I supported the decision of the majority of ORC councillors who voted to ask for more scientific information to be tabled before they decide on minimum flows for the Manuherikia River.

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Specialist wait times put Children’s futures at risk

September 08, 2021 Share

A paediatric orthopaedic patient waiting more than 520 days for an appointment with a Southern District Health Board (SDHB) specialist is completely unacceptable, MP for Southland Joseph Mooney says.

“Children’s bodies are developing and constantly changing, so to have a child waiting nearly 18 months to see a specialist is deeply concerning,” Mr Mooney says.

“This shouldn’t be how we treat our young people in this region.”

In a response to a Parliamentary Written Question, Minister of Health Andrew Little advised Mr Mooney that as at August 16 2021, there were 122 patients under-16 waiting for a first appointment to see a SDHB orthopaedic specialist.

Of those on the waitlist, one patient had been waiting 521 days.

“The Southern DHB website lists 18 orthopaedic surgeons working at either Southland or Dunedin hospitals.”

“We have seen the issues they have had keeping up with adult orthopaedic lists, the question now must be asked – how much of an effect has this had on children’s orthopaedic services?”

“If paediatric orthopaedic issues in children are not addressed it can leave them with problems that they must face their entire adult lives.”

“We need to do everything we can to avoid that from happening.”

“The positive flow on effect of early treatment is that these patients will require less specialist orthopaedic care in the future.”

Mr Mooney says that the Ministry of Health and the SDHB must improve their oversight of paediatric orthopaedic surgery waiting lists in the south to ensure appropriate resourcing is available to avoid more young people facing unacceptable wait times.

“The orthopaedic surgeons can only do so much and the last thing they would want is being in a position where they cannot assist patients whose problems, if not treated now, could cause life-long issues.”

“SDHB management are being forced to move from crisis to crisis without addressing some of the critical health needs of the Southern population.”

Mooney has been vocal on a number of healthcare issues in Otago and Southland and has lobbied for marked improvements in areas such as cancer treatment and maternity services.

The MP says the Minister of Health’s oversight of health services in the region hasn’t been up to scratch and it is having a disturbing effect on the lives of his constituents.

“Labour did away with National Health Targets which took away accountability and reporting on performance.”

“The result has been patients being left behind. Information is power, and you can’t improve what you don’t track and measure.”

Mooney says the proposed restructure of the New Zealand health system by the Government could make more patients vulnerable as putting almost $500 million into paying bureaucrats to create what could be another flawed system won’t result in more hospital beds, more health staff, and an expansion of services in key areas.

Government must press pause on Three Waters Reforms

September 08, 2021 Share

Check out my Southland Times column from September 2.


New Zealand’s history books are filled with free and open debates on issues that are of the utmost importance to our communities.

Our country has a proud democratic history and having our say is a part of our way of life.

Right now there is plenty of conjecture around the Government’s Three Waters Reforms and rightly so.

But that conversation hasn’t been free and open.

At the moment almost all the discussion around the massive changes to New Zealand’s community drinking water, wastewater and drain water assets has been held in the media.

At last count 22 of 28 South Island councils have called for a pause on the 3 Waters reform process.

That number includes every relevant local government body in Otago and Southland.

Councils across New Zealand are making their stances public through news reports and interviews in an effort to be heard because the Government isn’t listening to their concerns.

That’s despite the bill for the implementation of the 3 Waters reforms being estimated to be between $120 billion to $185 billion.

The combined voices of our councils say they don’t have enough information on why they should hand over ownership of all of their water assets to an entity that stretches towards the top of the South Island.

Councils have also said they feel the Government is rushing them through the reform process.

That combination is a recipe for disaster, especially considering what is at stake - a once in a generation change.

The answer is simple.

The Government must hit pause on these landmark reforms and then address council concerns by engaging with them and the public in a free and transparent conversation on the merits of the 3 Waters Reforms.

It’s not only the right thing to do and the sensible thing to do, it’s the lawful thing to do.

The Local Government Act has a process to ensure democracy across New Zealand’s regions by making it a legal requirement for councils to consult their communities and their ratepayers on major changes to their priorities and their resources.

The Government’s handling of the 3 Waters process has ignored that legal requirement.

Pausing the 3 Waters process would allow councils to fulfil their legal obligations by giving them time to engage their communities.

The Government first has to give councils all the information they need, so that councils can have meaningful consultation with their communities.

Together with a proper dialogue from the Government, councils will be able to make informed decisions on the future of their water assets.

There should be no rush when it comes to implementing once in a generation change.

Taking a patient approach has the added benefit of allowing local government bodies to focus on what is most important right now.

New Zealanders have made huge sacrifices during Level 4 lockdown and the price individuals and businesses are paying will last many times longer than the two weeks that Southlanders were forced to stay at home and in their essential jobs.

Councils shouldn’t be spending the recovery period fighting the Government for a fair hearing over the ownership of water pipes and pumps.

Supporting communities and their local economies should be their focus right now, and the Government should give them the time and space to do so.

At the same time Government should also be focusing all of its efforts to protect our communities from the pandemic, rather than getting side tracked with yet another massive project.


Sensible approach taken with Manuherikia River minimum flows

August 27, 2021 Share

MP for Southland Joseph Mooney says the Otago Regional Council’s (ORC) decision to seek more scientific advice before making crucial decisions about the future of the Manuherikia River is the right one.

ORC councillors have voted to seek more scientific detail on a range of factors, which will provide more information for the setting the river’s minimum flows.

Mooney says he applauds the councillors’ move to take a calm, well-rounded and science-backed approach before making crucial decisions about what he describes as an incredibly vital natural resource.

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Mooney outlines vision for farming in new video

August 26, 2021 Share

MP for Southland Joseph Mooney says discussions need to continue on the wide array of Government regulations set to significantly increase pressure on our farming communities.

Farmers took to the streets in a nationwide protest last month to voice their displeasure with the approach Labour and Greens Ministers have been taking with issues including water supply and services, water quality and biodiversity and vehicle taxation.

Mooney says after having their backs against the wall, the farming community has shown their resilience and renowned practical attitude by getting on with the job during New Zealand’s Level 4 Lockdown.

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Electorate Update - August 2021

August 19, 2021 Share

I hope you are safe and well and adjusting to life in Level 4 lockdown.

With confirmation that the Delta variant of COVID 19 is in New Zealand’s communities and with numbers growing since the discovery of the first case, decisive action was needed to prevent further community spread.

The Delta variant is very infectious and considering the travel movements of New Zealanders, there is a strong possibility that this strain could have made it to the South Island.

With our very low vaccination rates the only option was to go into lockdown.

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Mooney urges southerners to look out for each other during lockdown

August 18, 2021 Share

MP for Southland Joseph Mooney’s message to southern communities is to stay safe and look after each other following yesterday’s announcement of a three-day national lockdown.

Like the rest of New Zealand, the Southland Electorate moved to alert level four today following confirmation of a COVID19 case in the community in Auckland, which is suspected to be the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus.


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April Newsletter 2021

April 30, 2021 Share

What a day it was after more than 12 months to welcome our neighbours from across the Tasman back to the south this month. While many family and friends have reunited, these flights have also brought with them hope for our hurting communities worst affected by Covid-19 like Te Anau and Queenstown. 


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March Newsletter 2021

March 31, 2021 Share

Just like that and March has been and gone - a month filled with ups and downs. We changed alert levels, there was speculation a trans-Tasman bubble announcement was coming, only to be disappointed by an announcement about an announcement and the Government delayed implementing changes to the winter grazing rules until next year. On the ground in Southland, I’ve been right across the electorate with National Party branch AGMs and visiting various areas with my National colleagues. I can assure you we are working hard in Wellington to make sure your voices are being heard.

On another note, I'd also like to take this opportunity to wish you all a safe and happy Easter for this coming weekend. Enjoy the time with your family and friends and enjoy the long weekend if you can. A special mention to those of you who will be working this holiday period - I hope you will enjoy a well-deserved break soon too. 




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