Every week, Government ministers are deluged with official facts and figures relating to their portfolios. Wading through them can be a daunting task. Even then, they may not tell quite the full story.
The one voice missing from most of these reports is that of John and Janet Citizen. That is why there is little reason to criticise Health Minister Tony Ryall's surprise visits to hospital emergency departments.
The minister says it is important for him to see first-hand what is happening. That is self-evident. No area can reflect quite so badly on a government as that of health, and this one raised the ante when it made an election promise to cut emergency waiting times.
It has set a target of 95 per cent of patients being seen, treated, admitted or discharged within six hours. Mr Ryall is obviously keen to ensure that progress is being made.
Quite so; and what better way to assess progress than by dropping in unannounced and without fanfare? We remember our days in the health system. Ministerial visits were planned well in advance, were micromanaged, and the minister saw what the DHB (or whatever iteration it was at the time) wanted him or her to see. It was patently a case of looking at things through rose-tinted glasses.
Ryall's actions, which to us are a stroke of political genius have not impressed everyone, but there is one notable absentee from the list of critics - read on:
Predictably, he has not won universal acclaim for his policy of making spot checks of how long people have been waiting "if I'm in a city or a town and I've got a spare five or 10 minutes". Former Labour Health Minister Annette King has accused him of spying, while staff in emergency departments variously described the technique as "insulting and undermining" and "creepy and weird".
Notably, however, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists had few concerns. Ian Powell, the executive director, spoke of a "storm in a tea-cup". That was a welcome statement.
Indeed. Dr Ian Powell has been no friend of past National health ministers, with whom he has repeatedly clashed. We commend him on his refusal to politicise this, in the way that Annette King has done.
And in light of David Cunliffe's outrageous abuse of the democratic process in sacking the Hawke's Bay DHB in 2008, perhaps hospitals should be glad that it is Ryall dropping in, and not the man who would be Labour's leader!