28 Apr 2021

Judith Collins' Māori Health Authority comments 'hypocritical' say some Māori health leaders

6:36 pm on 28 April 2021

"Hypocritical" and "a distraction" is how some Māori health leaders have described National leader Judith Collins' comments that a Māori Health Authority is "racist separatism".

National leader Judith Collins 17/02/21

National leader Judith Collins Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The authority is part of a suite of reforms the government has proposed to the health system.

Collins has called for it to be scrapped, saying the healthcare system should not be determined by race.

"There is nothing in being Māori that intrinsically makes anyone more in need in the health system, and we could also say the same about Pasifika, we could also say the same in particularly Indian New Zealanders - it is important that we have solutions that work in communities, but they will not be based on someone's ethnicity and it can't be," Collins said.

Prominent Māori GP Dr Rawiri Jansen agreed with Collins to an extent.

"There's nothing intrinsically about being Māori that should give us the differential health outcomes that we've got and so it does turn the focus to the system, how the system should change to do a much better job and I think we can all agree, therefore, that some structural change in the system is a good idea."

He said however that whānau-led solutions would help turn around persistent inequities such as Māori dying seven years earlier than non-Māori.

"We've had a health system which has delivered really badly for Māori, we've got a separate system already so I think that's a distraction," he said.

Collin's said it was things like poverty or high smoking rates that created inequities, not race.

Te Puna Ora Mataatua chief executive Chris Tooley said that ignored New Zealand's colonial past.

"Judith just doesn't get the point," Tooley said.

"Māori have suffered through a colonial context and systematic injustices and smoking or alcohol or any kind of addiction is just a response to having experienced that kind of trauma.

"Time and time again Māori have been targeted when it comes to advertising, they've been targeted when it comes to the supply of these kinds of substances, so it's no wonder that they experience the current inequalities in our health system."

A Māori health authority was it would mean providers - such as his own in the Bay of Plenty - would get more funding instead of the sliver of DHB budget they had been receiving.

He said the value of Māori health providers was their ability to engage whānau unknown to the health system, with 30 percent of the families they came across while operating Covid-19 mobile testing clinics last year not even "on the radar" of a DHB.

Tooley pointed out the National Party had in its time overseen the establishment of Māori-led and designed entities.

"It's hypocritical of Judith to come up with this position, especially when she was in a government that oversaw the establishment of Whānau Ora".

In a statement, Collins said Whānau Ora provided assistance to all families and whānau in times of need, and it did not have the power to veto other government services.

This is one of the National Party's concerns about the Māori health authority, which will be able to veto policy and strategies of the single new health entity, Health NZ, which is to replace the 20 DHBs.

"National are not opposed to targeted solutions, we are opposed to a segregated health system," Collins said.

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