National’s Shane Reti made his debut as interim Opposition leader at question time on Thursday, grilling the Government on its Covid-19 response.
Reti was made interim National leader until Tuesday after the party’s caucus ousted Judith Collins as leader on Thursday morning.
He began by asking about the growing waiting list across New Zealand to access health services.
Reti said more than 27,000 people had been waiting for four months or more for a first assessment with a specialist.
Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare, standing in for Andrew Little who was visiting Auckland, said he couldn’t confirm the number.
“However, I am confident as we look towards supporting our Covid-19 response, as well as business-as-usual as best we can given we are in a global pandemic, that we have a system that will be able to cater for that,” Henare said.
He said the Government would continue to monitor the situation.
Reti then asked about ICU beds: “How many then, if any, of the 284 ICU beds he has stated are fully resourced do not currently have a dedicated ventilator?”
Henare said he didn’t have that detail. But, he said he was confident the country’s health infrastructure would stand up if the right supports were put in place.
Henare pointed to Little’s announcement today of a $300 million boost to Pharmac to buy new medicines to treat Covid-19. A further $204.1 million has been announced to support people self-isolating.
It's part of the Government's new Covid Care in the Community model, which the Government said would guide how it supported people as cases continue to rise.
Reti also asked about the rate of hospitalisations from Covid-19 the Government would consider manageable under the incoming traffic light system.
He asked whether Auckland’s three DHBs had manageable levels of hospitalisations.
Henare said he was confident hospitals in Auckland would continue to be able to “respond well”.
New Zealand recorded 178 new community Covid-19 cases on Thursday, 149 of which were found in Auckland.
However, while case numbers increased, the Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said increasing vaccination rates were keeping hospitalisation rates from shooting up.