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Turia furious at attacks on Maori health providers

25 July 2003 Media Statement

Turia ‘furious’ at attacks on Maori health providers

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia has strongly defended Maori health providers, saying the history of Maori health has shown that whanau, hapu and iwi have a greater chance of achieving successful outcomes than others.

“Maori providers received less than two percent of the total health budget in 2000-2001.

“On this amount, Maori providers are making a difference to health at a local level, with innovative programmes to increase immunisation, reduce smoking, promote healthy lifestyles, and provide services to rural and disadvantaged communities.

“Two days ago, the Health Ministry released a major report showing that Maori-provided smoking cessation programmes achieved good results against the odds. What coverage did that get in the media?

“Instead, news reports have sensationalised allegations of individual wrong-doing, when whanau who provide Maori health services are doing the very thing they have been challenged to do. And they are doing it with some success, on limited budgets,” said Mrs Turia.

“These attacks on Maori providers make me furious. The media should be much more concerned about the billions of dollars spent in past years which have not shown any appreciable improvement in Maori health outcomes. Neither the budgets nor the services were controlled by tangata whenua.

“Maori providers have increased ten-fold over the past ten years because regular monitoring and auditing of funding contracts and providers have shown they have met targets and been successful. If there has been any mismanagement, there are mechanisms for dealing with that, and they have been used,” she said.

“Maori providers take a whanau-based approach, which looks at all the factors contributing to poor health in the whanau, including housing, employment, education and so on. Their success lies in getting the whole whanau involved.

“This can lead to allegations of nepotism and ‘jobs for the whanau’. But if a whanau-based approach works better than conventional services, what is the problem?

“Many whanau members who train and qualify in health professions could earn far more in the private sector or mainstream services, but they come back to work for their people. I want to acknowledge their commitment and contribution.

“Our people are damned if they take responsibility, and damned if they don’t. The critics should look at outcomes, not processes.

“Allegations in the media, and attacks by opposition politicians, suggest the clients of Maori health providers are not getting effective care, and taxpayers’ money is being wasted.

“The fact is that mortality and health disparities began to widen ten years before Maori providers came to the rescue. It is mainstream health providers, who get over 98 percent of the $7.4 billion health funding, who should have to answer to Maori for the poor health of our people,” said Mrs Turia.

“Last week Dr Lynda Scott of the National Party said Maori health providers should have to account for the health outcomes they achieved with government funding. Presumably she thinks GPs should have to account for the outcomes they achieve for Maori with the GMS benefit, and the same for all other health services. Dr Scott’s own practice might be a good place to start.

“I can tell you, Maori providers would welcome such comparisons of value for money!” said Mrs Turia.


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