Jacinda Ardern ‘gutted’ sick woman didn’t make it back to NZ

The AM Show 11/09/2018

The New Zealand woman who fell ill while holidaying in Bali has died, after her family appealed to the Government to bring her home.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she's "gutted" Abby Hartley wasn't able to make it back to New Zealand, telling The AM Show on Tuesday: "I wish I was in a position to have helped."

But she said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) deals with "roughly 200 plus cases of medical emergencies or medical situations every year, and about 3000 New Zealanders are helped every year abroad."

"The really sad thing is that this isn't an isolated case in assisting New Zealanders overseas," she said, adding, "There will no doubt be other cases where someone will have sought this kind of assistance."

Also appearing on The AM Show, ACT leader David Seymour called it a "tragedy" that could have been prevented by cutting government spending.

"One of the consequences of that is that the Government finds itself less able to help people in genuine unexpected need and people who give... are less able to do that because so much of their money is paid in tax."

Ms Hartley, 41, was rushed into hospital at the beginning of August after falling ill on her first day in Bali, Indonesia, while on her 'second honeymoon' with husband Richard.

She underwent emergency surgery to remove a section of bowel after doctors noticed a piece of it was twisted and dead.

But her condition worsened, despite a successful operation, as she developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), several infections, a collapsed lung and kidney failure. And on August 15, doctors made the call to put Ms Hartley in an induced coma.

The family wanted to medically evacuate Ms Hartley and bring her back to New Zealand. The Balinese hospital ms Hartley stayed in confirmed to TVNZ on Tuesday that she had purchased insurance with Cover-More Travel insurance through Air New Zealand.

However, she did not disclose a pre-existing bowel condition before she left for her trip to Bali. The insurer has since remained quiet, opting not to comment on the situation.

"After a very long and stressful battle with the insurance company they have made the final decision to not cover any medical costs therefore we have been left with a very expensive medical bill," the family said.

Mr Hartley wrote to the Government for help to bring his wife home, but Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said it was not possible, saying the Government is unable to fund costs of medical care and evacuation, which Ms Ardern agreed with at the time, adding MFAT in Indonesia was doing all it could.

A Givealittle page set up by Ms Hartley's daughter Sophie to cover the enormous hospital bills and fly the mother home raised more than $230,000 from 431 donors. 

National leader Simon Bridges said at the time he was contacted by "concerned New Zealanders" with pockets deep enough to cover the cost of her treatment and medevac. Mr Bridges said he'd arranged to have the woman flown home.

Ms Hartley's family said on the Givealittle page that she was fit to fly on Friday, but it is unknown what was underway, and why she didn't make it back to New Zealand.

Asked if he'd use taxpayer money to get Ms Hartley home if he was Prime Minister, Mr Bridges hinted he would have.

He said he understood what the PM and Mr Peters said about precedents, but "the truth is precedents are broken all the time - whether it's paying out in Christchurch, whether it's sending a plane out to something that's happened".

Ducan Garner blasted the Government on The AM Show Tuesday morning, saying it should have been more flexible and understanding to Ms Hartley's situation.

"When this Government was asked to step up, it turned its cold shoulder and walked away. Our deepest sympathies to the Hartley family - may your wife and mum rest in peace."

Watch the full interview with Jacinda Ardern above.

The AM Show with Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson, weekdays 6-9am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.

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