February 28, 2022
John Tamihere column | Bloomfield the Magician
Bloomfield the Magician
By John Tamihere
Twelve months ago, Whānau Ora requested the roll out of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs), noting full well that this was a screening tool. Not a diagnostic tool.
On February 28 2021 at the 1pm stand up truth podium press conference, Dr Bloomfield went on the record, when asked why he did not rate RATS. He said “of all the different testing modalities, antigen testing seems to be the least reliable” and he was not contemplating using RATs in Aotearoa.
This statement was made at the same time RATs were being deployed by the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, throughout the United States, in Canada and in some Australian states.
On all modelling, Whānau Ora knew that RATs was a tool that would at least stop panic surges on nasal swabbing tests.
In other words, RATs were a first line of defence. The deployment of them would not have our laboratories overwhelmed. We could then triage those in greater need, in terms of identifying a slowdown in transmissions.
In September 2021, six months after Bloomfield’s RAT denunciation, 100,000 RATs were purchased and later deployed at Middlemore Hospital, a hotbed of Covid transmissions in the Delta phase.
The RATs worked at Middlemore because it took the pressure off and acted as a first screen on whether visitors or Middlemore staff were possibly carrying and or spreading Covid.
A month later, 25 New Zealand corporates, led by Mainfreight, ordered 300,000 RATs. It took 4 weeks before they were allowed to deploy them.
Also in September 2021, saliva testing was also made available for border workers, with the letting of a $60 million contract by Bloomfield to Labtests.
That trial collapsed.
Another remarkable story and costly expense.
At the same time, Whānau Ora, in partnership with Rako Science, requested saliva testing for elders, those on blood thinners and those with severe apprehension to buds being jabbed through their noses.
Once again, this was denied out of hand. The cost of saliva tests is lower than for nasal swabbing.
The net result of this is that Whānau Ora groups are now setting up our own PCR laboratories, and the cost of doing so is cheaper per test by 40% than what Bloomfield and the Ministry of Health are currently paying for their system.
Unbelievably, on the 23rd of February 2022, – almost 12 months after Dr Bloomfield’s outright denunciation of RATs, he has made the call that RATS is no longer just a screening tool but has determined against all good science that it would now be deployed as a diagnostic tool across the whole of Aotearoa.
Now that is the act of a magician. Remarkable!
Two days later, we learn a shipment of RATs has just arrived in Aotearoa and the supply on board will double the capacity the country has.
Why were the RATS not ordered earlier?
As we come to the very end of beating Covid, these conducts must be reviewed and we must never allow absolute authority to be vested in one person called the Director General of Health.
The actions and conduct of one super bureaucrat, has created headaches on the frontline up and down Aotearoa. It is this steadfast, stoic and implacable Kiwi workforce that has carried us through to date in spite of, and despite poor management across the Ministry of Health.
Radio Waatea and its board would like to advise that the opinions posted are those of Martyn ‘Bomber Bradbury’ and not necessarily the views of Radio Waatea, its Management or its Board.