Jacinda Ardern replies to boy who gave budget advice on beds for sick kids

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has responded to an 11-year-old boy’s letter urging more Government support for Auckland’s children’s hospital, Starship.

But the reply has left the kind-hearted boy with more questions than answers, while his mother has described the PM’s response as “disappointing”.

Cooper Sinclair wrote to the Prime Minister with his own budgeting advice after his sick cousin Max had open heart surgery delayed five times because of a shortage of beds in the children’s pediatric intensive ward (PICU) at Starship.

The Takapuna Normal Intermediate School student asked Ardern to trim back the $250 million planned for a new six-storey parliamentary building and allocate more cash to fund 10 beds desperately needed at PICU.

Cooper said he was really happy to have received a reply but said Ardern had avoided answering the question.

“It’s awesome that she wrote to me and it’s a nice letter but she doesn’t really answer my question about why the Government can’t give some more money to Starship,” he said.

“She said she supported Starship but she didn’t say if she would give the extra money to finish the project.”

Cooper’s mum Olivia Blaycock said Ardern had skirted around the question like a “typical politician”.

“It’s a bit disappointing. Cooper was confused and asked me ‘so is she supporting Starship or not Mum?'”

In the letter, Ardern told Cooper she appreciated him taking the time to write and complimented him on his “well-written letter”.

“I’m sorry to hear that your cousin Max has been unwell. I know how worried you and your family must be about him, but I’m pleased to hear that his operation was successful and he is back at home in Methven with Honor, his mum, and dad.”

Ardern explained the new parliamentary building was essential for safety and said it had the support of all politicians – even the Opposition.

“It’s important to me that if there is an earthquake all the staff who work here are safe,” she explained.

“Because we lease the current building it will work out either cost-neutral or cheaper to build a new one over a 30-year period.

“So in a sense, it’s no more than the rent we are paying for the current building which has earthquake issues.”

Ardern finished by wishing the best for Cooper, Max and their families and said she would keep supporting Starship and “investing in a range of health services around the country”.

Cooper’s plea for beds at Starship carried the same message as an open letter a mother wrote to New Zealanders.

Auckland mum Carly Roberton penned a touching letter to New Zealanders asking for help to buy beds Starship after she saw the effect of the shortage first-hand.

Roberton’s 2-year-old son Theo has been living at Starship since becoming critically ill this year.

The mum had seen surgeries delayed and children placed on a ward when ideally, they would have been in intensive care.

PICU currently has 22 beds available to New Zealand’s 1.25 million children under 16.

The Government has put $25m toward the $40m needed for the hospital expansion project. Starship has another $8m available so $7m more is needed.

Starship director of surgical and intensive care services, Dr John Beca, said the expansion was critical.

“We are nearly full every two or three days, and we can manage that currently but we need to do something in the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.

About 1200 children are admitted to PICU every year.

“We can do so much more, and the things we can do now mean that children survive, who might not otherwise,” Beca said.

• Donations can be made online at www.starshipicu.org.nz or by contacting the Starship Foundation directly.

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