Patrick Gower: Jacinda Ardern makes it personal

OPINION: Jacinda Ardern has gone personal - and it has been a useful political weapon. It has helped Ardern reclaim the narrative of the campaign.

She was on the back foot - getting owned by National's relentless attacks on her vagueness over tax.

She needed to change the conversation, and this has allowed her to get one of the big issues back on the agenda.

And being so personal makes it all the more effective.

Speaking to a Grey Power audience in Nelson on Wednesday, Ms Ardern said Waikato Hospital attempted to discharge her grandfather at 11:30pm on Tuesday night.

"My grandfather was in hospital yesterday in Waikato. At 11:30pm at night they tried to discharge him. He lives an hour away from the hospital and he's 85 years old.

"Now, I do not blame the people working in the system. They are doing a fabulous job, but Waikato Hospital is full. It's full, and that's the kind of choices that the people working in our system are having to make."

Ms Ardern said when her grandfather - who she didn't wish to name - wasn't admitted, he just stayed out until he was seen.

"He's 85 years old. There wasn't the ability to transport him home at that time of night, so he did remain there," she said.

Ms Ardern said the point of bringing her family into it was to highlight the issue.

"For me that was about highlighting what this election should be about, and that's improving health services. It is not about me. It should be about the people that need those services."

Waikato Hospital issued a public message on Tuesday night saying the emergency department was full and Waikato Hospital was also full.

In a statement to Newshub, the health board said, "Waikato Hospital has been full for the last few days, and our emergency department has been overloaded. The hospital is now back on track but still very busy, as is our emergency department. We are sorry that this experience has caused concern for the family."

National leader Bill English said the hospital was extraordinarily busy. "I hope that he is getting better, because everybody deserve the right level of service," he said.

The Newshub-Reid Research poll shows health front and centre for voters.

Asked what they thought was the most important issue this election, health came in at number one, just ahead of housing.

Despite the concern, Mr English said access to the public health service is fine.

"They get good access, and the constant feedback is when they get the care they are very happy with it."

The election campaign - getting personal.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's political editor.