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Thursday 10 November 2016

Free surgery bid "nutty" - Health Minister

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 19th May 2015

Jonathan Coleman says it's a "nutty idea"
UPDATED: A move within the Labour Party to push for free gender-reassignment surgery is being slammed before it’s even gained significant traction.

ONE News reports at least one regional party conference has voted for a remit to make the expensive surgery free.

It’s already a Rainbow Labour policy to “review funding and access to gender transition procedures”.

After hearing about the plan for free surgery, which has come from the party’s youth wing, Stuff asked a number of MPs for their thoughts at Parliament today.

It says Health Minister Jonathan Coleman described the proposal as a "nutty idea" which was not high on his list of priorities, and reflected the focus of the Labour Party.

"I think they're totally out to lunch and it shows you why these people will be unelectable for a very long time."

Labour leader Andrew Little didn't know much about it and said he hadn’t given the policy much thought, stating "I'm quite happy with my gender." He added it was complex and “and not an issue I'd make a policy up on on the hoof.”

Labour’s Napier MP Stuart Nash said he didn’t think it was an important issue for New Zealanders.

"To be honest, never once in Napier has anyone ever said they're not going to vote for Labour because we're not funding gender reassignment surgery."

According to the report, Rainbow Labour MP Grant Robertson said he didn't feel strongly either way, but acknowledged it was a "complex issue" that would be an "expensive undertaking".

However Robertson, who has been a solid lgbti advocate in Parliament, says he was not actually asked a question about trans health care, but about open ended funding of surgery.

Read what other MPs had to say here

At the moment, four gender reassignment surgeries are supposed to happen every two years under the Ministry of Health’s high cost treatment pool.

However surgeries have been on hold since the only surgeon who carried them out in New Zealand retired.

There have been 68 applications for funded gender reassignment surgery over the past seven years, and just nine surgeries have been carried out.

Those who can afford to, have the surgeries overseas. Others are beginning to turn to crowdfunding to raise the cash.

Jennifer Shields is crowdfunding for surgery
Among the crowdfunders is Jennifer Shields, who has previously blogged she needs surgery. “I need it to be able to continue living my life – the longer I go without it the harder things get and the closer I am to dying.”

Today, Shields tells Daily News the waitlist is 40 years long, “and that's longer than our life expectancies”.

She continues: “That's not good enough, and Labour's attitude towards the surgery is incredibly disappointing. I'm glad that Little is ‘happy with [his] gender’ but that doesn't mean that trans people should go without surgery that will save lives and significantly improve mental health.

“Stuart Nash seems to think there are no trans people in his electorate, which is an old excuse we've heard time and time again: ‘oh, there's no one like that here, so it doesn't matter’.

“The MPs interviewed by Stuff all seem to be valuing what's popular amongst their voters instead of what a significant part of our population needs to live beyond 40.”

Jennifer Shields has blogged more about the issue here

Lynda Whitehead from trans rights and support group Agender is incensed.

“It’s absolutely appalling what has been done, or more correctly not done,” she says.

“And to label this as ‘nutty’ is ignorance and arrogance at its worst.”

Kelly Ellis from TransAdvocates, who was a Labour candidate at the last election, says if the Minister of Health “is calling mainstream medical treatment nutty, then we've got a quack in charge of this important portfolio”.

She adds: “These views, disproven by science, are Flat Earth country. I'd hope the Minister is better briefed before he embarrasses himself further.”

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