Getting results focus of Māori pathway

The University of Otago medical school. PHOTO: ODT FILES
The University of Otago medical school. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Health Minister Dr Shane Reti is assuring the public there will be a focus on training Māori and Pasifika doctors amid claims a proposed review of admission schemes was "racist dog whistling".

The Māori entry pathway means students need to reach the minimum grade threshold, be committed to giving back to Māori communities, and have whakapapa to be accepted into the second-year programme.

As part of National’s coalition agreement, the government would "examine the Māori and Pacific admission scheme and its Otago equivalent to determine if they are delivering the desired outcomes".

But Dr Reti said there would be a focus on getting results.

"‘It’s an absolute priority for this government, and for me, to develop the homegrown culturally competent doctors and nurses New Zealand desperately needs — including Māori and Pasifika.

"However it’s still a reasonable thing to ask ‘is this programme achieving its objectives?’

"That’s what will be asked here and we shouldn’t be afraid to have that discussion.

"This government doesn’t want anything to stand in the way of anyone who aspires to be part of our health workforce.

"My message is clear: we want you all."

The wording of the proposed review has been criticised by student organisations as "racist dog-whistling".

Outgoing Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) president Quintin Jane said the organisation would fight any attempts to scrap the scheme.

Tumuaki (head) of the Otago Māori medical students’ association Te Oranga ki Ōtakou, Toni Hoeta, said New Zealand needed more Māori and Pasifika doctors at graduate level for all specialties to achieve demographic proportionality at specialist level.

She said there had been real progress made over the past few decades, and removing those pathways could see society "go backwards".

Many student organisations have also lamented the new government’s decision to axe the Māori Health Authority, which was created last year in response to a recommendation included in a wide-ranging review of the health system.

Dr Reti has previously said their plan was to replace the Māori Health Authority with a Māori health directorate within the health ministry

During the election campaign, Act New Zealand leader David Seymour expressed doubt on the effectiveness of the pathway schemes.

The proposed review was included as part of Act’s coalition agreement with National.

"Universities have had a generation to gather the results from affirmative action," Mr Seymour said in August.

"Time’s up, if they can’t prove that it is making a serious difference then it should be gone."

When asked for further comment yesterday, an Act spokesman forwarded all inquiries to Education Minister Erica Stanford.