29 Sep 2005

Cook Islands Secretary of Health defends patient referral system

8:21 pm on 29 September 2005

The Cook Islands health ministry has defended the patient referral system criticised following an audit report tabled in parliament.

The report, which highlights political interference in the approval of referrals by the health minister, says the committee overseeing referrals had been pressured to approve referrals on the minister's directive.

The report notes that in recent years three cases were allowed

repeat visits to New Zealand on the minister's directive.

Secretary of Health Vaine Teokotai says he doesn't support the comments made in the audit.

Mr Teokotai says a current ministry review of patient referrals will help them improve the system, but he dismisses claims of political interference.

"Where is the point of appeal for the patient or the family? If the voters feel that the minister is to be the point of appeal, then do we classify that, the minister's involvement from there, as political interference? There will always be pressure on the referral committee, but with the improved guidelines, we should be able to avoid those in the future, and have everything processed through the normal system."

Vaine Teokotai