On the 23rd of February this year, before the vaccines had even arrived, I wrote to Health Minister Andrew Little asking for financial support for Māori health providers in order for them to play an important role in the vaccine roll-out, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“It was apparent to me, even in the early stages of the Government’s chaotic vaccine roll-out, that Māori communities would be among the most difficult to reach with general vaccination programmes and among the most susceptible to contracting the virus.
“While initially it appeared that the Government also understood that attention needed to be paid to getting Māori vaccinated, I was disappointed that this did not extend beyond talking about it ad nauseam and any funding was subsequently many months after I wrote the letter.
“As I stated in my letter to Minister Little, the current pandemic is a one in one hundred year occurrence and in order to reach Māori, especially those living rurally, Māori and iwi health providers would need to be bolstered with Government funding and allowed to do the job.
“I also suggested that this be part of building an immunisation infrastructure with Māori health providers that could be maintained in the future for other vaccines such as the measles MMR.
“I could only shake my head in disbelief when we learnt Whānau Ora was not being utilised despite the agency having done substantial work to prepare how they could assist. We now see that Whānau Ora providers have had to take the Ministry of Health to court in order to access Māori health data.
“And while there is no doubt that rolling out a nationwide vaccine programme is a challenge, the Government seems to have tripped up on even the simplest aspects of it. We were always going to need all hands on deck and to cut out Whānau Ora providers and underfund other Māori health providers was a critical mistake.
“Everything I wrote in my February letter to Minister Little, National MPs have been repeating to the Government in Parliament and through the media. It is devastating to have been a broken record and then to see the very thing we sought to prevent – low Māori vaccination rates – come to fruition.
“All I can do is play the record again and say: Minister Little, fund Whānau Ora and Māori health providers properly. Ensure they have access to data from DHBs and primary health organisations. Work with iwi and whānau. No more korero; let’s see some action.”
You can read a copy of Dr Reti's Letter to Andrew Little here.
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