OPINION: Pearl Buck, winner of the 1938 Nobel Prize in Literature for her raw depiction of Chinese peasant life, once said "The test of a civilisation is the way that it cares for its helpless members."
If that is the measure of a good society then New Zealanders are being failed dismally.
Last week we heard that Treasury, Statistics and government ministers and ministries have understated the number of children living in poverty by 30,000 and numbers of retired people in poverty by about the same.
Imagine how that has impacted on government decisions and policy positions in the last five years. This is truly a blot on Bill English's record.
When nurses have to ration care to patients due to staff shortages it becomes apparent that this Government has let down its most helpless citizens. A stopwork meeting in Dunedin, attended by 300 nurses, clearly showed Southern District Health Board management that the staffing shortage has reached crisis point and patient care is suffering.
The headache caused by severe underfunding to Southland and Otago's nurses was exacerbated on February 24 when IT systems crashed for 12 hours in hospitals throughout the southern region.
Patients' lives were jeopardised as files, lab results and contact details became inaccessible for a dangerously long period of time. The hospital officially denies this but I stand by this claim.
This is just the latest in a string of blows to the health system in the region.
Constituents visit or ring my office daily speaking of their experiences under our severely stretched health system.
Surgical patients are being bumped from waiting lists and on to "active review", breast screening and fertility services are being placed in the hands of profit- driven organisations for which local knowledge is of secondary importance, and too many areas in the Southern region have inadequate access to nearby health services.
On Friday last week Labour MPs Annette King, David Clark and myself held a public meeting in Dunedin on these issues attended by more than 100 people. We will hold another one in Invercargill soon.
The Southern DHB needs to listen and admit there are serious health delivery problems in our region.
Pearl Buck's words must not become just a dim hope for the future.
Clare Curran is the Labour MP for Dunedin South.
- The Southland Times