Health a priority for Labour’s Zelie Allan
Health is all Labour Waitaki candidate Zelie Allan wants to talk about.
It is also the most asked about subject from people who come into her store in Oamaru after they notice her election photos in the shop window.
Allan says if you’re not healthy, health becomes the only thing you think about.
She knows that better than most, after she got very familiar with several health services following her breast cancer diagnosis in 2014.
After her diagnosis Allan said she went through the health system for her operations, chemotherapy and radiology and was alarmed at the daunting waiting lists that so many people had to face.
‘‘I was in the health system for 10 months. I am now still in the health system. It is the waiting lists that concern me.
‘‘Yes I got through it. But I saw the stress on the doctors and nurses. You can just see it in their faces.’’
Allan felt National had not properly addressed issues of lack of funding in the Oamaru Public Hospital and Dunedin Hospital.
She also rejected Prime Minister Bill English’s claims that the Dunedin Hospital was not in a crisis in August following the resignation of the head of nursing, the chief financial officer and the human resources manager.
The evidence it was a crisis was supported by National’s later commitment to spend $1.2 billion on a rebuild, she said.
Getting health services sorted was the reason she ran for the Waitaki electorate. She wanted answers.
‘‘It wasn’t just me. It was me seeing other people as well as myself.’’
Allan was confident a funding boost for the Oamaru Hospital was the only way to get services back to an adequate level following Nationals $2.3 billion take from the health system in the past six years.
‘‘The funding definitely needs to be increased. That is the only way we are going to get those beds back.
‘‘Labour will put money back into the hospital.’’
Hard work was as much a core value for Allan as it was for the party she stood for, and she was no stranger to hard work.
She spent 16 years working in manufacturing and planning for Oamaru company Gillies before moving to Fulton Hogan.
Although she worked in the office it was not uncommon for her to get her hands dirty.
‘‘If one of the guys called up sick and said they couldn’t come in and we were asphalting that day, I’d have steel caps on and have my phone calls diverted to my cell in my pocket and get out there.’’
After she left Fulton Hogan she wanted a new job.
‘‘I got to a stage when I didn’t have a job and I didn’t want to go to the bottom of a heap in a new job.’’
She bought into retail and now owns two businesses, Style 358 and Revamp Clothing , which sit opposite one another on Thames Highway.
Allan recalled a recent conversation with an interested voter who couldn’t understand why she was not a National supporter.
‘‘There was a guy and he started questioning me in town ‘he said what do you do?’ I said I was a business owner and he said ‘well you should be National then.’’’ She rejected that. ‘‘I have worked hard all my life, I busted my ass. That is what a Labour government is, you work.’’
Her link to Labour went back to when she was a child.
She was brought up alongside five brothers and was told if you wanted something ‘‘you have to work for it‘‘.
This election was different to others, she said.
People were debating issues and policies in much more depth than in previous years and Allan credited one of her key inspirations, Jacinda Ardern, for driving it.
David Clark was also an inspiration for her.
‘‘If we become a government and Clark becomes Minister for Health then that will have a big boost for us down here.’’
Allan said she had also received much support and advice from former Labour MP Marian Hobbs, the former Minister for the Environment and Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
‘‘She is now in Dunedin and she is brilliant. I can ring her and talk to her to bounce ideas off her.’’
Her plans for the next few years were up ‘‘in the air’’ and the first thing she wanted to focus on was the hospitals.
‘‘Now that I have signs up in my window, that is the thing people keep coming to me to talk about. Health, health and health.’’
If Labour was unsuccessful in the election she would not stop being a voice for the community for health, she said.
‘‘I’ve been asked ‘if you don’t get in, will you drop it?’
‘‘No, I won’t drop it. I am close to David Clark and I’ll get him straight on the phone if there is an issue. Member of Parliament or not.’’