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'We're paying the cost' - Expert says inequality adding to NZ's Covid issues

A Covid-19 modeller who is advising the Government in their response to the pandemic says a "bottom-up" focus has to be introduced to New Zealand's healthcare system with Delta outbreak being the proof for why it's needed.

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Rodney Jones said New Zealand is currently paying for decisions made in the 1980s and 1990s. Source: Q+A

Rodney Jones from Wigram Capital Advisors spoke to Q+A after addressing the Government's select committee earlier this week about some of his concerns for the current outbreak of the Delta strain, particularly in South Auckland where there has been community transmission.

"What we've experienced this time is actually what we've seen in the rest of the world that in affluent areas and affluent suburbs, outbreaks are brought under control very, very quickly," Jones said.

"We saw that in Sydney and it's happened, say, with our Birkdale cluster.

"Even where you have strong institutions like the Mangare AOG church, they brought it under control relatively fast.

"Where you get in trouble is where Delta is spreading in socially-deprived communities where they face challenges that most New Zealanders can't imagine where life is difficult.

"They lack the institutions such as churches to help support them and that's when it spreads and that's when you get these background cases and that's when Level 4 struggles to work."

Jones said inequality is present all around New Zealand, not just Auckland though.

"In Northland, in Poverty Bay, on the East Cape - we avert our eyes," Jones said.

"The cost of this inequality has manifested over a long period of time; the thing with Covid is that the cost appears over three months where you get a Delta outbreak in a part of your community struggles and you can't control it, you can't manage it.

"We're paying the cost today instead of in 30 years time through health spending or prisons."

Source: Breakfast

Jones said Kiwis need to face the fact the nation cannot go on in such a manner.

"This has been a consequence of what we did in the 80s and 90s and sorts of reforms we adopted; it meant more inequality and we thought we could live with that but we can't."

As such, Jones said now is the opportunity for New Zealand to seize the much-needed change.

"We need to think about the longer-term drivers and we tried to do that but it's been hard for the politicians because it's not that popular to confront these issues so we've tended to put it to one side.

"We now need to recognise we're in a different space."

The most important change needed is surge investments, Jones added.

"We need more spending on Middlemore [Hospital], we need to bring in ICU nurses from offshore, we need to hire globally and bring them in their families through MIQ and build up our capacity," he said.

"But then also at the grassroots - on the ground public health - and that means empowering the local community.

"But we need to find ways for the Government to fund resources for them."

Jones said the Government has started to address these issues but more can and needs to be done to keep New Zealand's most vulnerable safe.

"I just think we do have an issue in New Zealand where Wellington is different and very far in life experience from South Auckland," Jones said.

"We saw that in the Papatoetoe outbreak where it should have been got under control and handled very quickly but somehow we didn't get our arms around that.

"We do need to reimagine and the things we're doing with the Maori Health Authority is the direction we need to be going.

"This can't be top down, it has to be bottom up."