National, law is urged to reconsider position of Maori health authority

The Cancer Society and a number of NGOs have penned an open letter urging national and law enforcement leaders to rethink their stance on scrapping the Maori Health Authority.

Christopher Luxon and David Seymour
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Christopher Luxon and David Seymour have said they do not support a Maori health authority and will get rid of it if they win next year’s election.

The open letter says they stand in solidarity with Maori leaders and are united behind the establishment of the Maori Health Authority.

The letter goes on to say that its creation is at the heart of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and will help ensure everyone has equal access to good health outcomes.

Signatories include the Lung Foundation, Hāpai te Hauora, Kidney Health NZ, Stroke Foundation NZ, Breast Cancer Aotearora Coalition, Gynaelogical Health Foundation, Hei Āhuru Mōwai, Support Crew Hei Whare Awhina – and the list goes on.

The Cancer Society’s medical director, Dr George Laking, said he has gained support from a wide range of organizations over the past 24 hours.

He says the majority of them are non-Maori organisations, which he says is telling as there is overwhelming support for the establishment of the Authority.

“This is a non-governmental organization group of people working in the health field, who understand how our health care system works, with some independence from the government, unlike those who work in the healthcare system and who may not be able to speak – whereas we can.”

In response to the letter, Act leader David Seymour said it was a shame to see an organization with such an important cause being hijacked by political activism.

“They should stick to advocating for all cancer patients instead of doing stunts like writing open letters to politicians.

“If the Cancer Society wanted a dialogue with me, they could have contacted me and explained why. Publishing an open letter like this is just a set-up.”

Dr. Laking said The Authority is simply a way to solve a problem that we all know exists.

“It’s a fairly simple way to do it – leading the experts to remedy the problem we have, it makes sense to put the power of commissioning in the hands that understand it best.” Laking said.

“If they [Act] want to use analogies with the plane, well it is desirable to entrust the piloting of the plane to pilots who understand what is at stake with the company. Thank you very much,” he said.

Andre Petit

Health Minister Andrew Little
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The National Party acknowledged the health inequalities that Maori faced and described them as shocking.

He maintained his position by promising to disband the Authority if it wins the next elections, saying it is a token organization.

“We should focus on actions that will improve outcomes for Maori, not new token organizations and more layers of bureaucracy that the government says won’t make a difference for five years.

“National believes we don’t need two separate systems to deliver public services. We need a single system that contains enough innovation and components that can deliver better outcomes to people based on need. “

Health Minister Andrew Little said the open letter showed people in the health sector who know the system want to see the Authority implemented.

“The big challenge is to ensure that we have access to primary health care for Maori much better than we do now, which is prevention.

“The idea that it’s more bureaucracy, I totally reject that. The idea that it’s separatist, it’s not. There’s a health system but we need leadership Maori to improve Maori health services for Maori and that is what we are doing,” Petit said.

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