Health leaders warn system is in crisis - but Ayesha Verrall still won't call it that

The outspoken former chair of Te Whatu Ora has taken aim at the health reforms he was in charge of by calling them half-baked.

Rob Campbell said the health system is in crisis, but Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall is still refusing to call it that.

GPs have warned they're under too much pressure.

"We have a workforce where 49 percent of them are severely burnt out," said Dr Samantha Murton, president of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs.

Their numbers are declining and waitlists to see a GP can be five weeks long.

"If they can't get in to see their GP then it'll either be urgent care - which is also under the pump - or the emergency department," Dr Murton said.

Dr Verrall acknowledged the pressure our health system is facing.

"I think we've had tremendous pressure on the system at the moment and we need to take urgent action to address it and we're doing that," she said.

Over the course of last year, the number of people visiting EDs grew by more than 7000. The number of Kiwis waiting longer than a year for treatment increased from almost 2500 in January to more than 6000 in December.

"It's not good enough and that's why I've made waitlists one of my top three priorities, but it will take time given the pressure the health system is under," Dr Verrall said.

Major health reforms were put in place to fix some of these problems, but Campbell, the chair who oversaw these reforms, took a huge swing at his own work in a speech on Monday night.

"It may have looked okay on a whiteboard but in practice, it looked like the half-baked cake it was."

Campbell put the scale of the challenge bluntly.

"I don't know anyone working in the public health system who would not say we're not in a crisis situation. Some politicians may not like it but it is a crisis."

Dr Verrall did go as far to call it a crisis.

"I think I know that very capable people in our health system don't walk into a challenging situation and start addressing it in a way that leads to panic," she said.

Dr Murton thinks otherwise.

"If it's not a crisis now then I don't know when it will be."

The health system is bracing itself since winter is coming. Last year, the twin-demic of COVID-19 and the flu put extreme pressure on the health system.

The Government can't let that happen again and the minister will be looking to throw everything she can at it. Her plan on that is expected within the next couple of weeks.