Rachael the social justice martyr may be on to something with bed count but went awry on abortion

She is keeping an eye on bed numbers in Southland's mental health unit.

She is keeping an eye on bed numbers in Southland’s mental health unit.

Alf has been seized by a serious dose of petulance, since running through the list of ministerial promotions, demotions and what-have-you and finding his name is not there.

He is especially soured (but won’t be saying so publicly) by the favours dished out to Epsom’s MP, David Seymour, who becomes an under-secretary, and to Paul Goldsmith, who stood for National, took a dive but became an MP anyway on the party list and now is a Minister .

Eketahuna North, on the other hand, has no representation in The Boss’s ministerial team.

Bloody disgrace (but don’t let him know that’s what Alf is thinking).

So instead of writing about the ministerial line-up Alf has decided to look at the shit-stirring of another Goldsmith in the politics caper.

Could they be related?

The other Goldsmith is Rachael Goldsmith, whose brief biography can be found in The Daily Blog.

She is described there as

… a social justice martyr who was somehow born Christian Heritage Party but found sanity in adulthood and a family in the Green Party of Aotearoa NZ.

She is on their Policy Committee, and is the immediate past candidate and current spokesperson for Clutha Southland. She’s bisexual, is shamelessly attached to one of each, and is a step-mum, mum and foster mum (of kittens and humans!).

She’s also on far too many committees and involved in way too many organisations for her own good.

Between all of this she can be found feet up on the couch on Facebook with knitting in hand watching cop shows.

Her political passions include women’s rights, mental health, social development, gender & sexuality, reproductive health, housing and animal welfare.

Alf was particularly fascinated by the reference in these notes to Rachael Goldsmith having found sanity in adulthood.

This suggests she had not found it before then, which in turn suggests…

Well, the word mad came to mind, although it is fair to say Alf is predisposed to regard any Green Party member as mad.

Anyway, the reference to the discovery of sanity in adulthood was recalled when Alf was reading this news item from Down South.

The first para said:

A Green Party candidate has accused Southland Hospital management of lying to her.

But who was lied to?

Snap. It was Rachael.

Rachael Goldsmith, who unsuccessfully stood for the Clutha-Southland seat at last month’s general election, went on social media site Facebook to express her concerns about claims hospital management told her the unit didn’t need more beds.

This is a reference – by the way – to the hospital’s mental health unit.

“I’ve been part of a string of meetings with ex-consumers and the management of DHB mental health services over the last three months, and have been reassured that the unit is not full, that they are coping fine with the loss of several beds, and that all is well . . . I don’t appreciate management lying to me,” her post claimed.

The exact nature of the lie is not apparent from this statement.

Rachael has been reassured the unit is not full.

This strikes Alf as being good news. It means there are not as many mentally impaired people in Southland – can we not call them loonies? – as he imagined.

The health people are coping fine, which is as it should be.

Rachael would have cause to quibble if they were not coping and nothing was done to help them cope.

Alf’s only concern is the bit about the loss of several beds.

There’s the whiff of mismanagement here – beds should not be lost.

Perhaps they have been taken out of the mental health unit, because they were not needed there,  and put elsewhere in the hospital system where the were needed.

But it’s a big jump from making those points, then claiming the hospital has lied.

Alf is delighted to report that the Southland Times sought clarification.

Rachael was happy to oblige, saying she had asked the questions about bed availability during the first of three meetings with hospital managers in July and September.

She said that at the meetings she was supporting a group of former mental health consumers and staff who had issues with their care.

So we don’t have sick people down south. We have health consumers.

Goldsmith, who has herself been a consumer of the mental health service, said she had been aware from anecdotal reports from people in Southland that there were some issues regarding the number of beds available at the hospital’s unit. She questioned the managers on this, taking notes, she said.

She was told the mental health unit had not been full and they had not needed extra beds and she was also told the mental health service was not under strain.

Goldsmith said she was not convinced with the Southern District Health Board answers and she claimed an article in The Southland Times on September 15 “proves we were being lied to”.

The article said Southland Hospital was packing mentally ill patients into spare rooms and off to Dunedin as demand for mental health unit beds swelled.

Southland Hospital has 16 beds available in its mental health unit, but up to 21 patients had required the service at any one time during the past four months, the article said.

The unit once had 23 beds but four went because of the earthquake risk. This year the board reduced the number of beds from 19 to 16.

The health board funded 49 mental health beds throughout Southland and Otago and occupancy had been full on more than half the nights between May and September, the article said.

Hmm. Maybe Rachael has some cause to wonder about what she has been told.

Southern DHB spokeswoman Heather Casey answered the newspaper’s questions by email.

“The nature of acute demand is that it fluctuates and recently we have experienced a particularly busy period, while at other times we have significantly fewer patients.”

The Southland Hospital mental health inpatient unit was usually resourced for 16 beds but there were more bedrooms and other spaces that could be used in times of increased demand, Casey said. The health board could also increase staffing when needed.

The decision to reduce the number of beds in the mental health unit was made based on long-term trends in patient numbers and was in line with the board’s Raise Hope plan. The plan set out the strategic direction for mental health services in the southern district, Casey said.

“As part of Raise Hope, we continue to work to improve the way we provide services and support patients and their families, including in the inpatient areas. One aspect we are currently working on is ways to decrease obstacles that delay patients being discharged.”

Alf is apt to be become highly suspicious of bureaucrats who give fancy names like “Raise Hope” to their  programmes.

It looks like Rachael is on to something with her questions.

But she bombed out – in Alf’s judgement – when she recently published a response to criticisms of the Green Party policy to decriminalise abortion.

It was headed:

“The Green Party policy to make abortion safe and legal”

Pro Life NZ smartly picked up on this:

Do the Greens truly believe that abortion is currently illegal in New Zealand, or that it is inaccessible for NZ women?

Because, clearly, neither of these claims is true.

No woman who has an abortion while following the basic legal framework that exists in this country is doing anything illegal – they are operating well within the bounds of the law, so there is no law breaking going on at all.

And with almost 15,000 abortions in New Zealand last year alone, and one of the higher abortion rates in the world, it is equally false to claim that access to abortion is an issue in New Zealand.

Do the Greens also really believe that abortion is unsafe in New Zealand? Because that is definitely what that statement above indicates.

I am almost 40 years old, and I cannot recall any abortion deaths in my lifetime in this country, so why exactly are the Greens now claiming that abortion is so unsafe that the regulations surrounding it need to be changed?

And if it’s that unsafe, then how does loosening regulations actually help to ensure it becomes safer?!

Good questions.

But the real question is whether Rachael and Paul are related?

Politically, the clues above suggest they are polls apart.



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