9 Apr 2021

Major infrastructure needs at Māori providers and funding only 'a drop in the bucket' - health leader

7:40 am on 9 April 2021

Māori health leaders have welcomed the news non-clinical workers will be trained to administer the Covid-19 vaccine, but there are still concerns funding won't cover IT upgrades desperately needed.

Selah Hart from Hapai te Hauora,

Selah Hart says it's a move in the right direction. Photo: Supplied / Hapai te Hauora

Māori health providers have been consistently calling for kaimahi to be trained to give the jab so they can get greater coverage, and the Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has now confirmed an exemption will be made for them to receive training.

It's the news Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā member and GP Rawiri Jansen has been waiting for.

"These are kaimahi, kaiārahi, kaimanaaki, that workforce is going to be eligible to be trained and to do vaccinations.

"That's great news, it's something we've been working on for years and we think it's going to make a great contribution to the vaccine programme."

There were very few Māori nurses so using non-regulated health workers would fill that shortage, Jansen said.

Selah Hart from the non-clinical public health service, Hāpai Te Hauora, also welcomed the news.

"I think it's a move in the right direction and it's a great move to demonstrate the faith in Māori providers in general because we know they are the best connected to those communities we're so desperately trying to reach.

In order to build up this workforce, 62 Māori health providers will receive their share of $11m for workforce training and infrastructure upgrades.

But Hart said it "was a drop in the bucket".

"Vote Health has got billions of dollars associated to it, $11m will stretch as far as we can stretch it, Māori are resourceful at the best of times and so we will make do with what is there".

There were major infrastructure needs at Māori health providers, she said.

"We have people that are still running off paper-based systems, we have technical support services or infrastructure support that isn't on par with some of the technological advances that we have now pivoted our health services in general too ... we need to continue to build upon that".

It's not known yet how many community health workers would be trained to administer the vaccine.

Ngāpuhi Covid-19 response leader Tia Ashby said within the iwi collective of Te Tai Tokerau, almost 80 percent of the 90 staff were community workers.

She said training them for vaccination would make a big difference.

"It could help to minimise vaccine-hesitancy that we've seen in some areas, it will help to address rural health workforce - doctor, nurse shortages - and it's more cost effective than trying to hire and recruit more nurses".

Rawiri Jansen hoped once the vaccinators were trained, it would have an "enduring benefit", as they could then be utilised for future vaccination programmes.

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