Saturday, November 27

Covid-19: mayors frustrated by ‘information control’

Tensions between community leaders and Wellington bureaucrats are rising, as Covid-19 cases continue to spread.

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Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

One North Island mayor has stood by the district health board on the cases, others say the bureaucracy is increasingly frustrating.

Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson said community leaders say they just want to keep their residents informed, but some argue that the capital’s bureaucrats are stalling valuable information.

Allan Sanson, Waikato District Mayor

Allan Sanson, Mayor of the Waikato District.
Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

“The Ministry of Health is manipulating us out of Wellington, which is of no use to any of us,” he said.

The mayor of the Ōtorohanga district, Max Baxter, was providing locals with updates on new Covid-19 cases on his Facebook page, before they were asked to stop.

Baxter said the Waikato District Board of Health called him last week, after he posted that there were 18 cases in Waikato and four of which were “provisionally in Ōtorohanga” prior to the 1pm update from the Ministry of Health. .

He admitted that his position “crossed the line” and that he should not have released the broader regional figures, but said he apologized and added that the community should not be penalized for his mistake.

Baxter said he was told to stop sharing information before the official 1:00 pm announcement, after it “went out of bounds for proper communication.”

“Yes, it is a bit frustrating. I would like to have a little more confidence that I can share information,” he said.

Ōtorohanga Mayor Max Baxter Says Communities Must Lead Change Through Central Government Partnerships

Ōtorohanga District Mayor Max Baxter said he was told to stop sharing information before the 1:00 pm update. M. From the Ministry of Health.

Sanson said the situation was ridiculous.

“This is not acceptable the way it is being handled at the moment. I do not necessarily point the finger in any way at the local DHB, they are working under clear instructions from the Ministry of Health in Wellington,” he added. he said.

“But therein lies the problem, they are in Wellington. They don’t really understand what is happening on the ground here. They say yes, but they really don’t. If they lived and breathed this, they could understand how difficult this is to people, ”he said.

In a statement, the Health Ministry said that information can change on short notice, so it was important that cases were announced at a specified time each day.

Baxter said he understood their reasoning, but it wasn’t always practical.

“When information comes from a mayor or community leader, it is listened to and shared. Not everyone is listening to the 1pm announcements,” he said.

In a statement, Waikato DHB said that new cases and other related information has been confidentially shared with local partners involved in the Covid-19 response, ahead of 1 p.m. national updates, since the start of the pandemic. in 2020.

“This information is often preliminary and if shared prematurely it runs the risk of spreading misinformation, lacking details and guidance to support the community response, and therefore undermining the public health effort.”

Sanson said local mayors should be trusted to share that information with their communities sooner.

“The control of the information in relation to leaving it until 1:00 p.m. Until it is publicly disclosed, although most officials know it at 9:00 a. M., It is a period of four hours that we lose every day to get ahead, “he said.

Iwi’s health provider, Whakawhiti Ora Pai, serves isolated families living north of Kaitāia.

General Manager Errol Murray (Te Aupouri, Ngāti Kuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, Ngāi Takoto) said that overall Northland DHB has been good at sharing information.

Despite this, he said he was frustrated that if there was a local case, they weren’t being told who or where that case was.

Murray said that if they received more information, they could help people as soon as possible.

“If it’s local, we’ll get that information anyway, and then we usually go back to the DHB and say ‘look, this is who we’re listening to,’ but the funny thing is, if we can update your information, they’ll gladly accept it, but then they will cite the Privacy Act if we start asking them, “he said.

“That can be quite frustrating because we just want to come in and support the families the best we can,” he said.

The Health Ministry said it encourages district health boards to work with their important stakeholders so that they are aware in a timely manner of any developments in their region.

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