Posted on May 18, 2020
Prof. Gorman’s address on the Club's meeting via Zoom last week was refreshing, challenging and constructive.
 
Prof. Gorman called on biblical comparison to illustrate how NZ has dealt with Covid 19, citing the “Flood” as his reference point:
 
Before the Flood: NZ was not prepared for a pandemic, and delayed acting, to our disadvantage.  We relied on WHO issuances, which were slow, misleading and actively counterproductive to  managing this event.
 
 
Had we closed our borders in February, we would have, in all likelihood, avoided the 21 deaths attributed to C19. We didn’t use our one major advantage, geographic location/isolation to our advantage soon enough. We should have immediately formed a “grand coalition” and bi-partisan approach to this threat to NZ. Without this the public only had the government’s view and approach to rely on and they became fixated with the government lead. Prof. Gorman’s rating: Clear Fail.
 
The Flood:
The government provided explicit direction leading to a 5 week lockdown. Most NZ’ers complied. Numbers of infections largely controlled. However we were slow to respond to contact tracing, there was confused policy, we showed an inhumane approach to support and suffering...people dying alone, giving birth alone. It is not a humanist society that behaves like this. Prof Gorman’s Rating: Clear Pass—without distinction
 
After the Flood: 
The government’s approach is muddled. Moving to level 2 was inevitable, the risk of civil disobedience was high. There is a lack of consistency and we have been slow to move with technology, particularly in the area of contact tracing. It is time to consider all options to plan and instigate new methods of managing our health services, the conventional, 
and unconventional. Our current health system is in equitable and unable to deliver the outcomes NZ needs in the future.
 
There is a strong need to involve community networks to deliver services and outcomes. Prof. Gorman has serious concerns about the additional $4B funding for health, citing a lack of targeting and accountability in current structures. He believes the Ministry of Health should be re structured to a policy body and a separate operational body with a commercial structure.
 
He is concerned about the disease burden NZ is facing as a result of C19. Not only the consequences of delayed delivery of surgeries, scans etc, but also the impact mental health issues will have across the population. He emphasised the negative impacts redundancy and unemployment have on people. Prof Gorman still maintains a bi-partisan approach to the consequences of C19 is important, but he concedes it is an unlikely outcome. He recommends an oversight body be put in place to address this, including one that can consider the outcomes of Heather Simpson’s commission on health. He advocates a universal healthcare system, but concedes the difficulty of this, citing Michael Joseph Savage’s   attempt to introduce this, which only lead to his displacement from power. The consequence of vested interests overcoming public good needs.
 
We need a pandemic plan for the future. Those countries that had one, Singapore, Taiwan and others, with the benefit of SARS experience, showed how important this is. It’s not a matter of if, but when, we face this situation again.
He further recommends we quickly expand our economic bubble to include not only Australia, but also those other countries who have demonstrated similar controls/outcomes to C19. When asked if our outcome of C19 was luck Prof. Gorman said no, it was a consequence of “going home and staying home” despite the inhumane rules instituted. Prof. Gorman’s rating: Muddled—lacking proper planning.
 
 
Professor Des Gorman (Ngati Kuri and Ngapuhi) is a Professor of Medicine in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland. From 2005 to 2010, he was the Head of the University’s School of Medicine. He has a BSc, MBChB and MD degrees from the University of Auckland, as well as a PhD from the University of Sydney. The two doctorates were awarded for in-vivo brain injury research. Professor Gorman’s non-clinical interests include health system design and funding, and health workforce planning and development. He has more than 300 publications. He is the Chairman of the Orangi Mahi Governance Group (the Ministry of Social Development’s health initiatives) and a member of the Ministry of Health’s Capital Investment Committee. His past roles include being a Director of the New Zealand Accident Compensation and Rehabilitation Corporation (2012-2018), the Executive Chairman of Health Workforce New Zealand (2009-2019), a member of the National Health Board (2009-2014) and of the Government’s welfare reform group (2009-2010). Professor Gorman is currently involved in health reforms in a number of different jurisdictions. During his service in the Royal Australian Navy, he trained as both a submariner and as a diver.
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