Health a pri­or­ity for Labour’s Zelie Al­lan

Health is all Labour Waitaki can­di­date Zelie Al­lan wants to talk about.

Waitaki Herald - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS -

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.’’

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