'It cannot be separate' - Collins says Māori health inequities can be solved without dedicated authority

New Zealand doesn’t need a separate Māori Health Authority because discrepancies can be alleviated in one system for the whole country, Judith Collins says.

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The National leader says discrepancies in the system can be alleviated through targeted interventions. Source: Breakfast

Speaking on Breakfast ahead of the Government’s announcement about how it wants to shape a reformed health system, the National leader said Papakura Marae was one example where existing arrangements could address health inequities between Māori and non-Māori.

The MP for Papakura said her local marae, which has its own clinic, saw people of all ethnicities which “works well”.

“It is not about having a separate system. It cannot be a separate system,” Collins said.

It comes as the Minister of Health Andrew Little signalled the announcement could include creating a new authority that would have its own budget and purchasing power to fund Māori health services.

The reform comes after a report by Heather Simpson into a deeply inequitable health system that is under stress from demand. 

However, Collins said she wanted targeted interventions to address the inequities that lead Māori to have a shorter life expectancy and poorer health outcomes despite there being no “inherent” reason for it.

National is pushing for District Health Boards to report on its outcomes for Māori every year, for primary care navigators to be more accessible, and pilot lung cancer screening for current and past smokers, with a disproportionate number of Māori being smokers.

Part of the issue, Collins said, was some Māori lacked access to health services in areas like Northland, East Coast and South Auckland.

“Why don’t we focus on getting medical practitioners, nurse practitioners into these areas,” Collins said.

She also wanted a scheme to encourage medical professionals to work rurally.

Little had also signalled his announcement could include cutting the number of DHBs and creating a new agency, Health NZ, to oversee the remaining boards.

Collins said any restructuring of the DHB system would come at a high cost, amid a struggling system that was in about $874 million in debt and was still coping with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Taking dysfunctional organisations, putting them together, we’re just going to get one big fat dysfunctional [organisation].”

She also stressed the importance for local representation on DHBs, warning smaller communities would otherwise get forgotten.