Hundreds of doctors 'devastated' over scrapping of Te Aka Whai Ora - Māori Health Authority

8:07 pm on 28 February 2024
Shane Reti

Minister of Health Dr Shane Reti. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Hundreds of doctors have pleaded with Minister of Health Dr Shane Reti for more detail on what will replace the now dismantled Māori Health Authority, Te Aka Whai Ora.

A letter signed by more than 700 doctors, sent to the minister earlier this month, requested detailed information outlining how the government planned to continue prioritising Māori health outcomes.

Dr Rose Harris specialises in maternity and gynaecology at Whangārei Hospital and is one of 740 signatories on the letter.

Speaking to RNZ, Harris said actions by the coalition government have concerned medical professionals across the country.

"We are collectively devastated at the planned dissolution of Te Aka Whai Ora and we urgently wanted to understand the plan on how this is going to get dissolved and what the continuation plan was. We just want to know, we work in this field, so we need a very specific understanding of how this is going to work."

Harris said confusion and uncertainty around future plans have placed additional pressure on an already stretched workforce.

"We were all extremely disappointed, I mean it was a generic reply that basically just fobbed us off and it took a long time for us to collaborate on this letter and gather that many signatures," she said.

The collective of doctors said Te Aka Whai Ora was providing a much needed and vital support mechanism for medical professionals across the country and the government move has stripped that support system away.

"Any improvement to the way our country supports Māori health and wellbeing basically actually supports medical professionals who are also struggling to cope with indigenous health inequities, so that's why this letter has so many non-Māori names to it because they actually get this notion of what's good for Māori is good for everyone."

Cabinet and briefing material published on the Ministry of Health's website on Tuesday outlined the government's initial plan.

It included a "one-system" approach for all New Zealanders, cutting administrative complexity, more accountability over use of public money and encouraging localised services.

The minister noted Māori health outcomes were still a priority and Iwi-Māori Partnership Boards and Hauora Māori Advisory Committees would remain part of the government's strategy in the future.

He said the government "intends to shift decision-making closer to communities to allow the people who know their communities best to guide service design and commissioning".

"While the particular version of the dream that the Māori Health Authority laid out is coming to an end today, I want to paint a different dream, one that will be outcomes-driven, providing greater devolved decision-making that will deliver care as close to the home and the hapū as possible," Reti said on Tuesday night in Parliament.

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