But What Of The Real Culprits ? Covid Quarantine Crisis And The Rush To Judgement And Blame

22
2001

There’s been a few instances over the past few months wherein the Government and the Director-General of Health have said one thing … and it’s turned out that the situation on the ground has been a little different.

A good example of this concerns the NZ Nurses Organization saying they were having issues with getting PPE, and other working conditions.

As it turned out, there were issues – and these were moved to be rectified; occasionally at a rather glacial pace by the local DHBs involved.

I was disquieted about that – as I’m the sort of person who generally presumes that if somebody on the front line says there’s an issue, and somebody somewhat removed therefrom says there’s not … then you believe the ordinary worker. At least enough to take them at their word that there’s something which deserves looking at – and then look seriously into it.

The past 48 hours have thrown up another cluster of such occurrences. Some events that should never have happened; some events that – with something like 19,000 people going through quarantine – were probably bound to have occurred eventually.

As applies the former, there’s been a notable discrepancy between what we were told towards the start of the occurrence … and what it is that now appears to be the case.

But here’s the thing – it’s tempting to go for the simplistic take on this. To assume that when there’s a dysjunction between the facts-on-the-ground and the words-from-the-mouth at the Parliamentary Press Conference … that that means somebody standing in the latter is wilfully obfuscating. Lying. Covering things (most prominently their own behind) up.

That’s what National wants you to believe. And to be fair, they’ve got understandable reason to presume so – they’ve certainly done it often enough themselves while they were in Government. It’s part of the nature of the game in politics, no matter which side of the aisle you find yourself upon.

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Except I’m not sure that that’s what’s happened here. Not exactly, anyway. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that there seems to be reasonable evidence that it’s virtually the opposite.

Phrased another way: I have no reason to doubt that Bloomfield et co, and even the hapless David Clark *genuinely* believed they were in possession of the facts. That procedures were being followed. That we *were* in possession of what we said we were, doing what we said we were doing, things working basically as they almost ideally should.

And that the shock and fury many of us have experienced to find out that this is not, in fact, the case – has been an emotion they’ve felt, too.

Because it seems like they’ve been operating in almost as much of an informational void about this as we have. Perhaps even more so – as they had every right, as the lawfully empowered and responsible oversight of the situation, to presume that the datastreams they were getting were reasonably accurate and comprehensive in scope.

So why weren’t they. What went wrong.

Broadly speaking – I am calling this the “Yes Minister” defence.

Because that’s honestly what it looks like. Multiple layers of questionable communication let alone accountability and command-and-control, between often-competent and certainly well-meaning people at the top, and often-competent and certainly well meaning people at the bottom, that have allowed the *incompetent* exceptions to not so much *test* the rule as seemingly become it.

This does not absolve the Minister or the Government of ultimate responsibility in the overarching sense – it happened on their watch. But it DOES show that in the SPECIFIC sense, decision-makers at the top weren’t the directly proximate cause of these situations.

After all – superhuman though he may occasionally seem to be, it’s not like Dr Bloomfield could be personally across all quarantine facilities and testing-before-release in the country.

What I’m saying is – it’s easy and cathartic to focus upon the faces at the top, and fixate that they’re somehow the sum totality of the problem. To do so, in this instance allows the ACTUAL cause of these lapses  to fester quietly out of sight. Safe in its relative anonymity and lack of true accountability.

At various points in the informational chains going upwards, and the implementation chains going back out, things have become broken. In fact, it’s inescapable to conclude that they’ve actually been severely broken for some time.

Our health system has some amazing men and women operating in it – but time and again seems to find itself with feet and nervous-bundles of clay.

Just look at Dr Bloomfield’s immediate predecessor, or various other bureaucrats and middle-managers who’ve graced the headline pages in ignominy over the past couple of years. In some ways, it’s almost amazing that the system’s performed as well as it has up until this point – in ‘peace-time’ let alone during the depths of the current crisis circumstance.

This is why the military’s really been brought in. Because the Government has rapidly come to realize that really … it can’t actually trust the informational picture, and the adherence to commands from the center, of those other agencies that were hitherto entrusted with the running of our quarantine system.

Perhaps that should have happened some time before now.

Pending the no-doubt inevitable Commission of Inquiry into our pandemic response all up … who can say.

All things considered, while I am not seeking to abrogate the burden of responsibility that is borne by those by now household names at the top of the tree … I do think it’s worth emphasizing that having responsibility for the situation, and being at fault so as to cause it – are not, strictly speaking, the same thing.

The factors that may have lead to this week’s major shortfalls, or various others of the events I’ve subtly alluded to – would quite likely have taken place regardless of who  was Minister of Health at the time … or even perhaps regardless of who was in Government.

In fact, while I am openly somewhat partisan about this – I actually think that had National been in the driver’s seat, we would have had more numerous and risky occurrences to deal with. Simply because National has been quite plain in their intent to bring in more people with looser restrictions (particularly international students, and matching the Trans-Tasman Bubble with re-opening the border with China at the same time).

That’s why I don’t think sending David Clark afore a firing squad is actually going to help matters (in the short term, anyway). And why if there’s going to be a Witch Hunt – it should presumably be an Inquisition whose more searching instincts are focused rather further away and into darker recesses and corners than those we can see blaring back at us from the nightly news-casts as Tova O’Brien endeavours to tear to shreds the trustworthy reputation of the man we fondly call St Ashley.

There’s little to be gained from that. Except ratings and shock-value. Both for the Government’s political opponents, and for a scandal-hungry news-media looking to stoke the regime-change fires of the impending Election that’s coming later this year.

Our trust has been shaken, as a nation – and after what’s occurred – or, should I say, what’s nearly occurred (and hopefully hasn’t) – this week, that’s both understandable and as it should be.

22 COMMENTS

  1. These issues are exactly the reason for the explosion of operational risk within corporate and large business over the past 2 decades. Trust but verify is the mantra. This is standard risk management and it appears that either the ministry of health was either arrogant or stupid – either way this falls on Blomfield. Just as a CEO of an bank resigns when a major case of fraud or financial mismanagement occurs, Bloomfield needs to resign here. When you are on the big dollars the bucks stops with you not an under resourced lackey. Unfortunately he now has delusions of grandeur given the false adulation promoted by the media. Indeed he has probably been promised a high ranking spot on Labour’s list next term.

    There is no excuse given what is at stake here and you would have been frothing at the mouth had this happened under Key or English.

    • Chris Bishop should be resigning since he was so willing to advocate for these people to have compassionate leave even though he knew nothing about their health status, all this BS about just doing his job is garbage. When you have to start making things up by claiming bank CEO’s always resign after major fraud etc we can tell your argument is week. As for the diversion by comparing to if Key, English were in charge we all know that if National were still governing the country would be another UK, Spain, Italy, USA if that was the case.

      • “These people” were not NZ citizen nor tax payers so why was an MP playing advocate for them and seeking to have the rules broken putting NZ at risk.

        Did he have nothing else to do or creating mischief deliberately.

    • If you read personality types and body language well, then you are completely wrong. There are so many assertions by you but given your analysis then people like Nick Smth, Brownlee, Key, Collins, Bennett,English(450 texts) would have all been sacked given their misdemeanours ,although the irony is they were all personally involved in their crimes.
      Bloomfield was let down by others. Despite your character assassinations of Bloomfield, I believe he is a person.of the utmost integrity. The fact you are trying discredit him says more about you.

  2. Jacinda went from enchanted princess to wicked witch in a day! It turned out she was just another politician with no idea of the reality that exists and that is, “you can’t fix stupid” .

  3. Lets be clear: “You don’t get what you expect, you get what you inspect”.
    It is complete bullshit for the Government to blame others because things didn’t go as they expected.

    • Jays;
      We should remember that Ministry of Health is far better than switching the “management of Civid 19 “over to MBIE as has been mooted;

      MBIE as the ‘Ministry of everything” as Steven Joyce set it up as, and called it afterwards, was always a ‘monster bureaucratic mess’ from the start, and continues to be today.

      We really have no choice but to support the Ministry of Health as it is 100% focused on Health and not “everything else as MBIE has been wrongly set-up as by the fuck-up of all ‘Steven Joyce’.

      We must recognise the Ministry of Health did a good job of limiting the deaths of 96% of all those who contracted Covid 19 and we need to honour all those caregivers who saved so many lives.

      • I’m sick of blaming the last 9 years.
        When does Adern get blamed for her systematic incompetence? KiwiBuild, KiwiTrees, KiwiFees to name a few and now this.
        None of these things were the fault of anyone but Labour.
        They are fucking hopeless.
        Showing empathy and making promises is worthless if you can’t back it up with successful policy.

        • Jay Kiwibuild is underway but held up by developers not the Govt.

          The Govts mistake was not creating a MOW and building them themselves. It would have been a slow start but avoided the developers looking after their own interests first.

    • The govt are in parliament and not out implementing policy or developing processes on the ground.
      The Public service, police and unfortunately contracting parties are doing this. Heads must roll where the chain of implementation breaks down.

  4. Things went wrong in some instances, but we don’t know how wide spread it is. I believe it will be contained, because to date no hospitalisation and all but three tests have proved negative.

    Ms Ardern quickly acknowledged it was an unacceptable to failure and provided a good plan to fix the the problem.

    We don’t know where in the chain things went wrong yet.

    I will say that our lockdown worked because of clear information and people’s willingness to comply.
    It seems like some Nzders at the border have been less willing to comply.

    I will never believe that the symptomatic Covid woman didn’t think that her symptoms could be covid. Even in lockdown many of us had symptoms that could be covid, knowing full well that we had been isolating and still did the right thing, ie made sure we told the authorities and got tested. I strongly believed this woman deliberately hid her symptoms as she knew if she disclosed them she would be off to quarantine. They were hell bent on getting to see their dying relative, which is understandable. That’s why quarantine must mean quarantine. Sadly people can’t be trusted to do the right thing

  5. Unfortunately this lack of rigour at the boarder could have been predicted.It is the mode normal for Jacinda’s government.
    They know precisely what is required, they set the policy for action, they do the Governance role well. But then there is no linkage to the management operations to ensure that the job actually gets underway and the policy is actually carried out. There seems to be an assumption that having said it will happen that it actually will be.
    Look at housing, roading, light rail child poverty education. All have been addressed at the Governance level but no action of consequence has happened on any of them.
    Why? Because NO ONE PERSON has been put in charge and made accountable to carry out the policy. Instead committees of all “affected parties” have been put in place to decide how it will be done.
    Typically committees agree on what not to do but seldom agree on what will be done. That is the story of Jacinda’s government over and over.
    Maybe at this eleventh hour Jacinda has figured this out and appointed the Military man Digby Webb to actually make the policy is adhered too.
    Maybe she should consider appointing other competent individuals in housing roading rail and give them “power to act” things might then start to happen

    • This goes wider than ‘governance’. Traditional ‘management theory’ says that governance is separate from management and delivery. However, what’s been clear for anyone executing governance in the modern world is that things change so quickly that governance needs to be involved directly in management and delivery i.e. blue the boundaries. Otherwise governance, and this is especially prevalent in the tech sector, is a box ticking audit process that can’t catch problems when they arise. The only problem with this is it relies on governance professionals actually understanding, in detail, the area they are governing. These days, especially with the rise of professional managers, this just doesn’t happen.

      In this case, the MoH should have had roving assessors going round each quarantine facility at least once a week to ensure compliance with the policy. This is real governance – set the policy, follow through to see it’s implemented. Immediate feedback to improve the system.

      The other problem seems to be a lack of practicality from policy makers.

      It’s now abundantly clear that people will not do the right thing in quarantine, and exceptions to policy can turn in to outbreaks if the kind of governance I’m talking about is not implemented. Seriously, do you think someone driving from Auckland to Wellington is not going to stop and interact with other people? Come on, that’s just not believable in terms of physical practical reality or human psychology.

      In this vein, the next clusterfuck will likely come from air crew from AirNZ – especially since the new AirNZ CEO seems obsessed with re-opening flights to China.

  6. When things go right, Arden claims the victory for herself and her cabinet but when things go wrong she blames civil servants.

    She can’t have it both ways

    • Wrong again Andrew, so many falsehoods .
      Ardern congratulates “team of 5 million”.
      Making shit up Andrew may be real in your eyes, fortunately others only see your delusions.

    • Andrew How many Fuck-ups did National conflict on us all, in their nine years of “Slash & Burn” besides the “slash and Burn economic hollow out policy they left us with”?

      All labour did wrong was to place her trust the words of some ‘who wanted to spoil the faultless performance by the 5 million of us’.

      So those who ruined our faultless record were winding up hurting us 5 million people, so we hope the election rejects National for this as it was a deliberate set-up to spread Covid 19 by those who kept the information for hours until parliament resumed to drop the grenade.

      Stand and be judged.

      • So your saying Bishop knew that policy was not followed and these women had not been tested. He knew they would lie about not having contact with anybody .He knew that two teenagers had absconded after attending a funeral. He knew 18 people would be allowed to go to a funeral .He knew ship crew could land and go ashore untested. He knew a quarantine hotel was able to rent the exercise area out to a wedding party. If he did know all this way did the opposition not know .
        The wheels are falling off and need fixing quickly. I want to see National win but not because the other side have ruined all the good work done to date.

  7. Well, it turns out that one of the most regimented societies in the world has a problem. Despite being able to construct a purpose-built hospital in two weeks, China can’t quite organise Covid-19 testing properly. And after supposedly virtually stamping out Covid-19, China finds itself caught in a new epidemic that could go pandemic again.

    ‘Zhang Le, 25 has been waiting for more than two hours outside a car park to be tested for coronavirus. Police officers stand behind a cordon, futilely shouting through loudspeakers for people not to gather in groups. When they are not looking, two women duck under the tape and jump the queue.

    An officer tells Zhang and his colleagues, restaurant workers in a shopping mall, to go to the other entrance to the testing centre, set up on the outskirts of a park. They trudge over there only to be turned away again. Nearby, people stand or sit in groups as police try to herd them away.

    “I don’t know who organised this but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. With this many people, what if by coming here you get the virus?” says Zhang.

    Like most people told by their local neighbourhood committee or their managers at work to come here to get tested, he is confused and annoyed.

    After months of lauding its victory over Covid-19 and offering other countries its expertise, China has been hit by a new outbreak, in arguably the worst place possible for the Chinese leadership: Beijing……’

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/19/anxiety-in-beijing-as-officials-battle-new-coronavirus-outbreak

    Thank goodness we’re not governed by National, because if we were we’d be in a predicament akin to America’s, where no one knows what’s happening or what the plan is, and everything coming from the so-called leadership is a stream of bullshit -as delivered by John Key, otherwise known as Shonkey (because he was) when he was in office, and now emulated by -gosh what is the nonentities name? Oh yes, Todd Muller, the latest clueless bullshit artist to emerge from National’s ranks.

    • I understand that Chinese citizens within possible range of an out break are tested then that record is placed on the system and their personal cards to identify their Covid19 testing status
      .
      The new variation of the virus found in Beijing is very concerning. It evidently can survive in frozen food possibly for years according to estimated by Chinese virologists who share the data internationally.

  8. You could also offer a more simplistic reason why the military were brought in.
    In the military when you are given orders, you are expected to obey them and if you don’t you get your arse kicked.
    In the NZ civilian public service when you are given orders people HOPE that eventually you might get around to carrying them out, but if you don’t you probably won’t be called to account.
    That’s why Jacinda called in the military.
    They were probably the only ones she could rely on to get the job done properly.
    She couldn’t rely on an apathetic public health service run largely by embittered National hacks and bean counters.
    More than ever this sorry episode shows that NZ public services, especially health and social welfare need a good clean out.
    Organising them as public services first and businesses second, instead of the other way round which we have now, would be a start.

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