Independence of Māori Health Authority paramount - prominent health campaigner

A prominent Māori health campaigner wants a commitment in writing that a new Māori Health Authority will be independent, with control over its own budget and power to commission its own services.

Source: Breakfast

By RNZ reporter Meriana Johnsen

The Crown has agreed to setting up an independent agency that will oversee Māori health, and earlier this month, that was formalised in a joint memorandum it signed with Waitangi Tribunal claimants for the Hauora Inquiry.

The claimants have proposed the Independent Māori Health Authority would commission its own health services, allocating funding and negotiating its own contracts with health providers.

Establishing an independent Māori Health Authority was a key recommendation of the proposed overhaul to the health and disability system, put forward in the Simpson Review.

Health Minister Andrew Little said what power the authority would hold was still undecided.

"They've got to have genuine decision-making powers and working in genuine partnership with other bodies involved in providing healthcare."

Waitangi Hauora inquiry claimant Lady Tureiti Moxon said the mana motuhake (independence) of the authority was paramount.

"Let's get it so that Māori can actually take control of our own destiny and our own health and look after the things that we think are important in our own regions instead of having to go through a whole lot of bureaucracy and by the time everybody's clipped the ticket and it gets down to the people, there's very little left."

She said while the agreement with the Crown was historic, they've heard nothing since.

"The issue is that we haven't seen anything in writing, apart from the joint memorandum to the Waitangi Tribunal - which was significant - but what we want to see is what does that look like, what does it mean in terms of those who are going to be running it," Moxon said.

Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare said there would be an announcement on it in the "coming months".

"We've got to turn the inequities that Māori are suffering in the health system around and the only way to do that - and the evidence is overwhelming - is a Māori Health Authority."

Ōpotiki residents have joined the call for the authority, handing a petition to Henare and local MP Rawiri Waititi yesterday.

"In my work in the Bay of Plenty I see every day how the system is really unfair for people... I've seen and I'm shocked that Māori whānau and communities are treated differently and experience severe and persistent health inequities," Ōpotiki GP Emily Gill said.

Along with Ōpotiki resident Anameka Paenga, Gill was concerned the government had not committed to commissioning rights for the authority, which they said would make it "subordinate" to the Ministry of Health.

"We want a society where our right to improved health is protected for every person, whānau, and social group in Aotearoa New Zealand regardless of social advantage and disadvantage," Paenga said.

The Māori Party campaigned on establishing an independent Māori Health Authority, and its co-leader Rawiri Waititi said the model already exists.

"We've already got a commissioning agency through the Whānau Ora approach that obviously works and what that mean is that the communities are able to drive their own oranga and if we can take that particular model and move it over to health ... that would work a lot better for us."