National leader Judith Collins has dubbed Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield a "deified", "one-trick pony" who's "good at standing up and talking about COVID".
Her comments came after Dr Bloomfield apologised to Parliament's Health Select Committee for telling MPs he hadn't discussed the transfer of an ill United Nations worker from COVID-ravaged Fiji to New Zealand with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) officials.
In a letter to committee chair Labour MP Liz Craig, Dr Bloomfield said he had in fact exchanged text messages with Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Chris Seed about the Fijian, who was taken to Auckland's Middlemore Hospital suffering a serious bout of COVID-19.
Dr Bloomfield said he forgot about the brief exchange when questioned about the case by the committee, and would correct the record.
National's COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop, who sits on the committee, is calling for Dr Bloomfield to be brought before MPs again this week for further questions "on this serious matter" - and he has the support of his boss.
"I never like to criticise public servants because it's very hard for them to fight back," Collins Magic Talk, speaking about Dr Bloomfield. "But he's quite clearly drunk the kool-aid and we can see it with some of the things that have gone on."
The Director-General of Health has been widely praised for his communication throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, frequently taking the podium next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to deliver the latest developments.
But Collins says that's all he's good for.
"In my opinion, having been a minister dealing with chief executives, this guy is good at standing up and talking about COVID," she told Magic Talk. "I just think that Ashley Bloomfield is probably a one-trick pony."
Collins isn't calling for Dr Bloomfield's resignation... yet.
"I'm not at that stage yet but I think he does need to do an awful lot to justify his position and the deification that has occurred," she said.
"Look, he was very good at standing up and talking to people, but when we were told by this Government - and he was standing there with it - that there is one source of truth, that was clearly entirely false."
Collins is skeptical about whether Labour will allow Dr Bloomfield to be called before the Health Select Committee, though she couldn't remember chairwoman Liz Craig's name, because she's "obviously not making an impression".
"The Government probably won't let it happen. The Government has full control of that Health Select Committee and every time our MPs in National have been trying to hold the Government to account and ask Ashley Bloomfield questions, they've been shut down by Liz whatever-her-name-is."
Collins is calling on former Prime Minister and UN Development Programme administrator Helen Clark to confirm she played no part in influencing the decision, with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs confirming she had talked to both him and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
"I know who this UN worker is - a very senior person. I'm not going to release that person's name but it's pretty clear to me that this is Helen Clark getting on to her mates in MFAT, MFAT getting on to Ashley, and suddenly all things are moving," Collins said.
"It's so obviously one where it's not what you know, it's who you know, and as for Helen Clark, didn't she leave the UN some years ago? What the hell's going on here?"
Health Minister Andrew Little told Newshub Nation he'll be talking to the Director-General of Health on Monday about his misleading the Health Select Committee, but he threw his support behind Dr Bloomfield.
"Ashley is dealing with a lot of issues all the time. I have immense respect for him - I think he is doing a terrific job with a ministry that is being pulled all over the place to do a whole heap of things."