Northland meningococcal outbreak will spread thanks to poverty - Lance O'Sullivan

  • 29/11/2018

It's only a matter of time before Northland's meningococcal outbreak hits Auckland and anywhere else poverty is rampant, according to one of the region's top doctors.

Vaccines are being flown in from overseas, with free jabs for kids and teenagers to stop the spread of the deadly disease on offer in December.

Three people have died in the outbreak this year.

Lance O'Sullivan said on Facebook earlier this week he was "f**ked off to see another brown kid in NZ dying from a f**ked up health system", and was "ashamed to be a doctor".

Appearing on The AM Show on Thursday, he issued a dire warning for the rest of the country about the contagious bacteria.

"It'll be everywhere where there's pockets of what causes it to breed - which is you know, poverty-related -  overcrowding, poor access to health care... Whether it's that strain of meningococcal disease, whether you get an outbreak of blimmin' whooping cough or measles, you know, it's underinvestment in health because we're doing it wrong."

Lance O'Sullivan on The AM Show.
Lance O'Sullivan on The AM Show. Photo credit: The AM Show

Earlier this month it emerged microbiologist David Hammer had sent a memo to Northland DHB staff urging them to get their children vaccinated as early as May - six months ago.

Dr O'Sullivan defended Dr Hammer, saying he was a "good dude" and the memo was taken out of context.

"On face value it doesn't look good, but this guy's tireless in his service of the people of the north," he said, before criticising the "system" they have to work in.

"They don't get resourced well enough. They don't spend their money wisely and they could do a better job of that. But to pick apart one DHB and say they're doing a bad job, it's actually the whole system, right?"

He said one way politicians might learn is if they had to see kids infected with meningococcal disease in the flesh.

"We should send them down to Wellington. Tell them to go and sit in Parliament for a week."

But he's not blaming Labour specifically, saying "successive Governments have failed". The Labour-NZ First Government unveiled $4 billion in extra spending in this year's Budget.

Dr O'Sullivan also said the country's DHBs could be cut from 20 to just two, saving money that could be spent on healthcare instead of bureaucracy.