Luxon slams Labour MP’s comments on East Care

Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown, left, and National Party leader and Botany MP Christopher Luxon campaigned to stop East Care’s overnight service from shutting down. Times file photo Wayne Martin

The National Party is hitting back at an accusation it’s to blame for the closure of east Auckland’s only overnight medical service.

The after-hours service at East Care Accident and Medical in Botany ceased operating in late 2020 after more than two decades.

Its funding was provided by the now former Counties Manukau District Health Board from 2014-2018, then by East Care itself until it closed.

Since then locals needing overnight medical care have had to go to Middlemore Hospital in south Auckland, which is putting extra stain on the hospital’s emergency department.

On July 20 the Times reported Botany-based Labour List MP Naisi Chen said funding decisions by the previous National Government were to blame for East Care’s overnight service ending.

She said the loss of the only local overnight medical service was “devastating” for east Aucklanders.

“Cuts like this have occurred because the previous National Government underfunded the district health boards [DHBs],” Chen said.

“I believe Labour’s record investment of $9.02 billion into health should have been sufficient to restore funding for a 24-hour emergency room [locally].

“I have previously made this view clear to the DHB and will continue to advocate for an overnight medical service in east Auckland under the new Health NZ structure.”

National Party leader and Botany MP Christopher Luxon is now hitting back at Chen’s comments.

“The closure of East Care is due to Labour’s lack of funding,” he told the Times.

“For Labour to try to blame National is absurd.

“They are more interested in doing a bureaucratic health restructure than providing after-hour care for the people of east Auckland.

“As well as withdrawing services from the area, the consequence of the closure is the pressure put on Middlemore’s emergency department, where some wait times are reportedly over 24 hours and resulting in tragedy.”

Luxon says one in five Kiwis are now waiting more than six hours to be treated when they present at an emergency department.

“Why wouldn’t you use the services at East Care?

“East Auckland deserves a Government who will put the health of New Zealanders first, not one who continues to blame their mismanagement of funds on the previous Government after being in office for five years.”

A spokesperson for Te Whatu Ora – Health NZ previously said there are no current plans to reinstate overnight care funding for East Care.

“However, we are always reviewing our service options to make sure we’re doing our best to meet the needs of our Counties Manukau community.

“It’s important to note overall demand is high across the system, including primary and urgent care clinics, all of which are operating at high capacity.”