Maori not accessing mainstream health services: Ngai Tahu

Donna Matahaere-Atariki, chair of the Otakou Runanga Ngai Tahu authority and Ngai Tahu representative on a Southern ...
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Donna Matahaere-Atariki, chair of the Otakou Runanga Ngai Tahu authority and Ngai Tahu representative on a Southern District Health Board committee.

The Southern District Health Board needs to work more closely with Maori health providers if it is serious about closing the health gap between Maori and non Maori, a Ngai Tahu leader says.

Donna Matahaere-Atariki, a Ngai Tahu representative on the SDHBs Disability Support Advisory Committee, said Maori were not getting access to some health services.

Speaking at last week's committee meeting, she said the SDHB continued to roll out strategies that fitted one size and did not reach particular groups.

Matahaere-Atariki, also chair of the Otakou Runanga Ngai Tahu authority in Dunedin, later said  Ngai Tahu was invested heavily in outcomes for Maori and this was possible through collaboration with the SDHB.

But the reality was there was no equality for Maori accessing health services, "so the DHB needs to look at what its investment is in Maori providers", she said.

She questioned why the same amount of energy being put into groups that accessed health services was not put into groups that didn't, such as Maori and the elderly.

The door was open for everybody to access health services, but a lot of people did not walk through it, she said.

Matahaere-Atariki, who has been engaging with Maori health providers for 25 years, said the DHB needed to speak to groups that did not access services and find out why.

Maori did not push themselves forward, she said.

Ngai Tahu met with SDHB representatives regularly and the SDHB was trying, but the inequalities were deepening.

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Maori were not meeting the mark in access to GP services and had high rates of cardiovascular disease and they died earlier than non Maori.  

Maori could not wait for the DHB to fix everything so had started its own initiatives, with a low-cost GP practice set up by the Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Trust in Invercargill, while the Otakou Runanga had set up a health wellbeing hub for people who did not access services in Dunedin.

She believed Maori were lagging behind because DHBs only had to have a Maori health plan written by the Ministry of Health. They were not written from the perspective of what worked and what did not work in terms of decreasing inequality.

Southern District Health Board interim chief executive Chris Fleming said Maori in the southern district had overall better health outcomes than in many other parts of New Zealand.

But a significant disparity with non-Maori remained in areas including oral health, mental health and chronic conditions. 

Reducing the inequality was a major priority for Southern DHB and this was reflected in its strategy which was focused on improved health outcomes, increasing the Maori workforce and ensuring culturally appropriate services.

This strategy was owned by local Iwi whose input was invaluable, Fleming said.

The 2016-17 Southern Maori Health Plan had a whanau-centred approach and was endorsed by the SDHB Iwi governance committee, of which Matahaere-Atariki was a member, Fleming said.

"Addressing inequalities requires working in partnership across the sector and drawing on the strengths of Maori health providers in the district." 

In the past two years SDHB has worked with Maori providers across the district to build IT capacity and the SDHB supported all Maori providers to access funding through the DHB for workforce development and the Maori Provider Development Scheme.

The DHB supported Maori health providers in setting up of Te Kakano nurse-led clinics and the low-cost GP practice set up by Nga Kete was testimony to the success of the clinics, he said.     

The SDHBs Maori providers also delivered district wide health services supporting whanau, mobile nursing services and Tamariki Ora Services  to ensure youngsters got the best start in life.

Invercargill's Awarua Whanau Services health provider chief executive Trish Young said she agreed high numbers of Maori did not access health services.

This was highlighted by  nurse-led clinics being run by Awarua Whanau Services in Mataura and Gore. The clinic has 20 babies on its books that weren't previously accessing any well child providers, Young said.

Tracey Wright-Tawha, chief executive of Invercargill-based Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Trust which is a Maori-led primary health and social service that employs 60 staff, said Maori-led health options were crucial. 

Nga Kete set up the He Puna Waiora GP practice in Invercargill because it believed a significant number of Maori and others needed a low cost access option to quality primary health care.  About 2,500 patients had enrolled.

Diversity of primary health service options was key to ensuring people had choice and engaged, she said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 - The Southland Times

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