Maori agency ‘opportunity’ for progress

Southern Maori have applauded the Government’s decision to establish a standalone Maori Health Agency.

The organisation, announced by Health Minister Andrew Little as part of a far-reaching reform of the overall health system, will have joint decision-making rights to agree national strategies, policies and plans that affect Maori health.

Edward Ellison
Edward Ellison
Ngai Tahu kaumatua Edward Ellison said he hoped that would be a positive change and lead to improvement for Maori, who historically ranked poorly in health statistics.

"It was probably necessary reform," he said.

"Access to treatment, at an appropriate time, is crucial, so why perpetuate a system which seems unable to get ahead of that?"

A month ago, local runaka renewed their partnership agreement with the Southern District Health Board to work together to improve Maori health.

Mr Ellison said the "dust will have to settle" before Maori could decide what effect the reforms might have on the agreement.

Albie Laurence, chief executive of the Ngai Tahu owned Te Kaika health centre, said associate health minister Peeni Henare had been lobbied that Te Kaika wanted a more direct relationship between the iwi and the Crown to help improve health outcomes for all Maori across Otago.

"We spend too much time at the moment working hand and hand with whanau, only for our ideas to then get lost in the tangle of red tape in middle management.

"The urgency of the needs for our local whanau is out of step with a system designed to move slowly.”

Scrapping primary health organisations would have a significant impact on how quickly Te Kaika could address the healthcare needs of its community, Mr Laurence said.

"Primary health organisations are good at some stuff, namely looking after the health of a ‘general’ population’, but when it comes to our vulnerable communities of Maori and Pasifika, their situation is a result of generations of failure."

University of Otago health academic Sue Crengle, who specialises in Maori health, said the agency was an exciting innovation and she was optimistic it could help reduce Maori health inequities.

"Historically things that have been done have been incremental and small ... it is a new opportunity for influence across the whole health sector in a way we haven’t seen to date."

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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