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Bad news for Tongan Health Society, Langimalie

27/08 2013 Media Release

Bad news for Tongan Health Society, Langimalie

Health Minister Hon. Tony Ryall’s pet PHO Alliance Health+ (AH+) seems hell bent on destroying the Tongan Health Society (THS), says Tongan Advisory Council chair Melino Maka.

Counter to the Minister’s mantra of ‘better, sooner, more convenient’ health care for all New Zealanders, Alliance Health+ has gone out of its way to undermine primary care for Tongans through its persistent bullying and lightly veiled threats to the managers of Langimalie.

In 2010 AH+ was sold to us as the only way to improve primary care for the Pacific community. At the time I was a member of the Langimalei Board, ADHB Pacific Health Advisory Committee. Many of us saw the move as a betrayal of the Tongan community and our hopes for Langimalie as a beacon for Tongan self-determination. Unhappily, our concerns are now being realised and a serious cloud hangs over the Society’s future.

Since being forced to join AH+, the Society’s stability has faltered through poor clinic management, a dysfunctional board and waning community support. At one point, the THS faced the very real possibility it would have to close for good. Overtures to AH+ for guidance were ignored. There was no ‘alliance’, they alone remained in good ‘health’ and their ‘plus’ was a glaringly symbolic minus for Langimalie.

In 2012 the Board made a smart move and appointed Professor Finau as interim CEO. He immediately made the tough decisions and has successfully steered Langimalie back on course. Throughout this whole difficult process Alliance Health+ has done little more than watch and wait for the THC’s demise. It was not until it became clear that through Professor Finau’s leadership its fortunes were turning that Alliance Health+ decided it should change tack and appear supportive.

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And how did that that support look? More threatening letters and a hand in the appointment of a non-Tongan CEO. The Tongan Advisory Council is disturbed to learn that the successful candidate has little knowledge of Tongan people or culture, does not speak Tongan and has no proven management experience.

Given the clinic’s ethnic specific focus, wouldn’t it have been more prudent to choose a CEO with all three qualifications?

The Tongan Advisory Council believes there are many Tongans with more than the requisite skills for this role. More to the point, there was a willing and able candidate in the role already.

The Tongan Advisory Council officially calls for an investigation into the selection process behind this appointment. Of particular concern is the fact that two members of the selection panel are also on the Alliance Health+ Board. This last blow may well spell the end of the Tongan Health Society.


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