They say a week is a long time in politics.

And yet, in the course of a nation’s development, five years is merely the blink of an eye. The past five years in this young country’s history has seen many of us stunned by the speed and scale of our downfall.

The headlines of the last week will tell you that our health system is indeed in crisis. The educational outcomes and achievements of our young people are at their lowest ever. Those headlines tell the story of a country in decline. If you think that too harsh an assessment, consider the following.

The report into one of our most important hospitals, released this week, told us that Middlemore Hospital is indeed dysfunctional and unsafe for patients and staff. This evidence now sits alongside claims made just a couple of weeks ago that Southland Hospital is on the brink of collapse. And we hear from locals on the West Coast that the main hospital in Westport is closing over weekends, moving patients out of hospital and back home each time, due to a lack of staff.

My doctor mate at Tauranga Hospital tells me the doors are open only because of the superhuman efforts of the medical staff there.

The creation of Te Whatu Ora — the new name for Health NZ — saw a directive to hospitals demanding that all patients on a waiting list for more than 365 days be given a date for surgery. This, irrespective of the availability of resources such as theatre space, nurses, surgeons or beds. It sounds like a recipe for future cancellations and disappointed people.

In the meantime, I’m reading an article in the Herald describing the turmoil of a young family forced to move to Australia because their baby born in the Waikato can’t get the most basic of medical attention.

Then there’s the one about children as young as 7 years old roaming the streets and searching rubbish bins looking for food. Another group of young people, ranging from 8 years old to 15 or 16, are stealing cars and ram-raiding retail stores for fun and money. Their trail leaves shops with timber where windows once were and framed by massive concrete bollards, scenes which until recently we saw only on TV from places such as South Africa, Ecuador or Haiti.

The ram-raid stories included the headline that “Waikato is now designated as New Zealand’s ram-raid capital”, overtaking Auckland. Woohoo!