'A plaster over a gaping wound' – Dr Lance O'Sullivan blasts NZ health system, meningococcal response

After decades of failing New Zealanders - especially Māori - our health system needs a "massive redesign", Dr Lance O'Sullivan said today as he compared the Government's recent response to a deadly meningococcal outbreak to "a plaster over a life-threatening, gaping wound".

The former New Zealander of the Year spoke to 1 NEWS after "raging" on Facebook about the three people who have died in Northland recently due to the outbreak - and the Government's announcement yesterday that it will launch a targeted response in the region.

One of the victims was Alexis Albert, who died in July just days after her seventh birthday. Health officials were first alerted to a possible outbreak in May.

"I get f**ked off to see another brown kid in NZ dying from a f***ed up health system," Dr O'Sullivan said in the scathing critique, which he said he wrote while listening to Bob Marley.

"Access to appropriate clinical care is the big issue.

"...I am ashamed to be a doctor in such a f***ed system and can't wait until the people control their own health!!"

Speaking to 1 NEWS later, Dr O'Sullivan emphasised that he wasn't making a political statement or intending to place blame solely on Labour.

"This is not me saying one government is worse than the other. They're both as bad as each other," he said. "The incompetency and ineffectiveness and inability to address health inequities, despite all the rhetoric, is an age old thing.

"And quite frankly, people like me are sick of it."

Radical change - not "tinkering around the edges of the current health system with minor modifications" - is what is needed, he argued.

"We need to wipe this slate clean and look at something completely different," he said. "We need to look at changing this health system beyond recognition, because for most people it's not working.

"Most importantly, for my people it's not working at all."

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Jacinda Ardern says the MenW strain has reached outbreak level in Northland where three people have died this year. Source: 1 NEWS

He described the Government's announcement yesterday that it will receive a shipment of 20,000 MenW vaccine doses in coming weeks to distribute for free to children in Northland as "a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis that's been going on for decades".

So far this year, 29 people have contracted the new meningococcal strain in New Zealand, including seven in Northland.

"There is strong international demand for the MenW vaccine, which is in short supply," Minister of Health Dr David Clark said yesterday. "Pharmac and the Ministry of Health have done well to source 20,000 doses."

Dr O'Sullivan's response: "I'm not inspired."

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Infectious disease specialist Dr Emma Best talks to Breakfast about the symptoms and how to act. Source: Breakfast

"I know we can't have a perfect system, but when we have one that's so crippled, and the mistakes are generally driven by people, I just think we have to do something different," he added. "So this is a crisis, and the crisis is not just meningitis in Northland... I'm sick of the rhetoric. Change things. Don't talk about it. Action, not words."

One major issue with the system as it currently stands, Dr O'Sullivan said in his social media post today, is incompetent doctors in the regions.

"Māori living in Hokianga are more likely to have their child with barn door obvious symptoms of acute rheumatic fever missed by some jerk off import doctor on a three month working holiday from some uber rich European country," he wrote, citing other cases of misdiagnoses involving children in Rotorua and Whanganui.

"There is a great flood of change coming and in a biblical sense it is going to purge those that stand in the way of better health and ultimately mana for the people," he wrote. "And right now I am doing a BIG f***en raindance!!"

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NZ’s health system has been broken for decades and needs a massive overhaul – not rhetoric — the former New Zealander of the Year tells 1 NEWS. Source: 1 NEWS

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