7 Apr 2020

Government urged to put Māori at forefront of Covid-19 planning

1:58 pm on 7 April 2020

Māori health professionals say the government's response to Covid-19 has serious shortfalls and blindspots for Māori.

One-hundred-and-fifty-eight people showed up at the Kaikohe testing station on Sunday, with another 133 coming through on Monday.

The chair of Te Rūnanga-a-iwi o Ngāpuhi said earlier this week that the iwi was running a Covid-19 testing station in Kaikohe which the iwi was "running off its own resources". Photo: Supplied

The Ministry of Health is expected to announce what will happen with $30 million of targeted Māori health funding this week.

That money is part of the wider $56m announced by Māori ministers just prior to the lockdown to help with the Māori response.

However Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, National Māori Pandemic Response Group, which consists of a range of Māori health professionals, maintain Māori are still an after-thought in the government's response.

Associate professor Dr Elana Curtis, from the University of Auckland, said although the government had acted quickly, it had taken a one size fits all approach.

"And that really fails to recognise our cultural beliefs, our indigenous rights, our Treaty rights, [it's] just a lived reality of many whānau who are trying to cope with this pandemic."

She has urged the government to have Māori at the forefront of their planning - which appeared to not have been the case so far.

"Rather than what we are doing now which is essentially scrambling, scrambling to develop palliative resources, scrambling to think about what are the essential services for Māori, things like modified tangihanga processes, food security, what role traditional kai gathering can have - how do we help our whānau who are living in really vulnerable condition because of housing, over crowding, homelessness all of these things we could of thought about and planned for and intervened quickly."

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

Another member, Dr Rawiri Jansen, said the $30m needed to be made available immediately as Māori health providers were struggling.

"We have concerns with primary health services, people are being told that their health needs aren't Covid-19 related and they aren't a priority at this time, this is worrying for us as many Māori have medical conditions and long term illnesses and this is exacerbated by Covid-19 and they actually need good care now."

He said the funding needed to be distributed to Māori health providers and marae-based clinics in order to secure what they need to carry on at the front line.

Dr Jansen said there were also major concerns around data collection and its inconsistency.

"The problem is we aren't certain of the accuracy of Ministry of Health data.

"There are proper ways of collecting ethnicity data and not all of the parts of the Covid-19 response is using those standards. Healthline doesn't collect ethnicity data as far as we are aware, we need a national consistent approach and we are advocating strongly for that. Once we get that kind of reliability of that data then we will be able to do a better job of where we are at."

Dr Curtis has urged the government to get better Māori expertise in this area to influence decision making.

The Ministry of Health and Associate Minister of Health Peeni Henare have been approached for comment.

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