27 Jun 2023

Episode 11: June 27th - Mata

From Mata with Mihingarangi Forbes , 5:00 pm on 27 June 2023

Former Green MP Denise Roche has labelled opposition reaction to the health equity tool as "hysteria" and says it is "dogwhistling".

Roche and former Māori Affairs Minister Tau Henare and former Green MP Denise Roche discussed the tool with Mihingarangi Forbes on Mata.

The 'equity adjuster' tool uses an algorithm to rank people waiting for surgery for more than two years.

Clinical priority; time already spent on waitlist; rural isolation; deprivation level; and ethnicity - namely, prioritising Māori and Pasifika over others - are the five criteria used.

A  Newstalk ZB story published last week said the tool was introduced in February, in Auckland and Northland, though it was already in use before then - and had been reported on in various media outlets.

Opposition parties National and ACT have been critical of the ethnicity measure - and as Mediawatch reported, ACT launched a campaign and National pushed out a press release titled 'Race Has No Place In Surgical Decisions' just hours after the Newstalk ZB story was published.

The opposition then used question time in Parliament to make their concern known. 

National's Shane Reti called it offensive and wrong, his party's leader Christopher Luxon said waitlists should only be prioritised by need.

ACT's David Seymour said: "Everything should be nationwide, but this particular policy of putting some people up the list and some people down with the same need but different races we just oppose. We think it's wrong. We think people should be treated according to their circumstances, and their clinical need, their location and their deprivation - not their ethnicity."

Green Party leader Marama Davidson said the nature of the questions raised by MPs in Parliament were "absolutely intended to raise racist opinions amongst the New Zealand public". Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said opposition parties were "race baiting".

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has asked for a hold to be put on the rollout of the tool after asking Health Minister Ayseha Verrall to review it.

"Those who are arguing that we should do absolutely nothing need to explain to New Zealanders why they think that Māori, Pacific, rural, and low-income people should have to wait longer with the same clinical need for healthcare as other New Zealanders," Hipkins said.

Speaking on Mata, Henare told Forbes the health system "is as racist as hell when it comes to the delivery of service" - even based on need.

"I think anything that helps Māoris [sic] get better through the health system, because they are in need, is a good system," he said.

"If you were to take away the equity basis and based it on need, guess who comes up the top of the class - it's us, we win."

It has been known for a long time there was an inequity in the health system - "that Māori and Pasifika people are down the bottom of the queue", former Green Party MP Denise Roche said.

"This hysteria about queue jumping and what have you, if you're Māori or Pasifika, is absolute rubbish, it's not the way it's ever worked and it's not the way it's gonna work."

Te Whatu Ora exists because it had been recognised the current system has never worked, she said.

"We're hearing surgeons say that ethnicity has been a consideration always in the way that resources are allocated.

"It's a beatup, it's dog whistling again and really, I think as a society, as a country, we need to grow up and stop doing it because it's yuck."

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