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The Government’s belated response to Northland’s meningococcal outbreak is needed but does not alter the fact the handling so far has been abysmal, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“Health Minister David Clark needs to explain why it took six months for the Northland community to be made aware of the meningococcal outbreak which has resulted in three deaths in that time. Northland DHB staff were reportedly warned in May to have their children immunised against the strain, however.

“It is outrageous that in this case public warnings weren’t issued for this serious outbreak sooner, ensuring people knew what symptoms to look out for. The Northland DHB’s claim that it ‘didn’t want to alarm people’ is completely inappropriate. Its job is to keep people healthy and informed.

“The Government needs to reassure New Zealanders that public will be made aware of any future outbreaks sooner and that they will be handled more appropriately. It must also reassure New Zealanders that there are sufficient treatments available for outbreaks like this, given the reported nationwide shortages of vital medicines.

“The fact is this outbreak has undermined that confidence.

“While the vaccination campaign announced today will help, lives have been put at risk. Mr Clark needs to assure the public that our health system is prepared and will act appropriately to minimise the effect of this or any future outbreaks. The handling of the current situation would suggest otherwise.”

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