Friday, April 23, 2021

Barry Soper: Māori Health Authority not the right way to get a level playing field


If a government – it won't be this one – can say in 20 years Māori are on a level playing field when it comes to health outcomes, then you couldn't argue with what the Labour Government's planning to do with its health reforms.

But it'll take a lot more than a dedicated Māori Health Authority, with veto powers over decisions being made on behalf of the rest of us, through Health New Zealand to achieve that.

The District Health Boards were established with the best of intentions in 2000, aimed among many other things, at improving outcomes for Maori health with decisions being made by elected locals for locals.

But it hasn't happened, and the 20 boards have become little more than a debt ridden, bloated bureaucracy, headed by overpaid bosses who are collectively sucking around $10 million out of the system with their salaries over the past year.

Taking the DHBs apart and making the system more streamlined will certainly free up mega millions of taxpayers' dollars to be spent where it should be spent – on those who are suffering ill health.

The associate Health Minister Peeni Henare told us many Māori don't like going to the doctor because of their experiences, reinforced by their parents' and grandparents' experiences of the health system which he says has been negative. That's why Henare says the Maori health system must be reformed.

The cost of going to the doctor for them has also been raised.

But all of the aforementioned could be applied to many sectors of the general population, and in particular to the growing numbers who are struggling to make ends meet.

It's true Māori are sadly over-represented in the negative statistics, generally dying earlier than others, in reality not helped by their higher rates of obesity and smoking.  

It's doubtful though whether a dedicated, bureaucratic Māori Health Authority will rectify that. That's the sort of thing that Whanau Ora was set up for by the Key Government at the insistence of his coalition partner, the Māori Party's Tariana Turia, to give Māori more control over their own lives.

But the new authority, Health Minister Andrew Little tells us, will work in tandem with Health New Zealand to fund and run the overall system and will have the power of veto over decisions being made for the rest of us.

So how will it all work? Well, like a lot of things this Government proposes, we'll have to wait and see. It's yet to be designed by Māori.

Barry Soper is a New Zealand political journalist, and has been featured regularly on radio and television since the 1970s. Currently, Soper's main role is political editor at Newstalk ZB, a radio network in New Zealand.


Ray S said...

The sentiment behind the proposal is to be commended. But I fear the Maori Health system will become another black hole eating whatever money is thrown at it. Will the Maori Health system costs be in addition to the present health budget? Probably. What could say the proposal is a cynical vote buying exercise, like many others this government has done.

Jigsaw said...

The fact is that most of reasons for Maori health stats are lagging behind the rest of the population are all things that simply can't be fixed by simply by altering structures or hiving off on a separatist course. If Maori smoke more that everyone else, have problems getting their children vaccinated and fail to pick up their prescriptions how is separatism going to help? Does a very paternalistic system sound like a good idea? For all Maori? Especially as this government have discontinued virtually all of the ways of collecting such statistics? How will they know if there is an improvement- I mean a REAL improvement?
Most kiwis that I talk to have a deep distrust of any government or system that attempts to divide by race or ethnicity. Governments might see this as a way to improve something but I think most people see this falling into the box labelled ' the end justifying the means' and it NEVER does, not EVER.

DeeM said...

Sounds to me like the new Maori Health Authority is a blueprint for this government's ultimate plan to give Maori a veto over EVERY decision NZ makes. It's nothing more than a dry run of Labour's 2040 Agenda. Of course, it will fail miserably and waste countless millions, probably billions, of dollars.
Maybe that's a good thing in the long run because it will show the NZ majority just what's in store for them in every sphere of life if our current race-driven incompetents get their way!