Taranaki Māori health providers struggle with DHB despite PM’s optimism

Source: Local Democracy Reporting

Māori health providers are close to a Taranaki-wide deal for direct funding from the health ministry, side-stepping the district health board.

Bernie Edwards had Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as personal escort for his first Covid-19 vaccination dose.

By Craig Ashworth, Local Democracy Reporter.

Te Aranga, the Covid-19 response arm of the eight Taranaki iwi, is drawing up a plan to boost Māori vaccination across the region.

By Tuesday, only 54 per cent of Māori in Taranaki had received at least one dose, with just 31 per cent double-jabbed.

The chief executive of the health provider Tui Ora, Hayden Wano, said providers and Te Aranga have drawn up a proposal for direct ministry funding.

"What we're asking for is a much more flexible way of funding because sometimes the way contracts are structured, they've often got very tight parameters, and they don't necessarily relate to when you get to doing the mahi on the ground."

Visiting Taranaki on Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her government had been working with iwi and health providers to speed the vaccination effort.

"We have been working through a range of mechanisms to ensure that our Māori health providers have the flexibility that they need."

Ardern said she had joined a call with Māori providers and Taranaki DHB a couple of weeks ago.

"The sense I got was that people were working well together. There may be in some cases things we can do to pick up the pace and that was things we can do on data sharing."

"People have been working really well and adapting to what has been a changing campaign as we get to the harder to reach people."

But Wano said dealings with the DHB had been difficult in a range of areas including resources, coordination, collaboration and communication.

He said about 18,000 vaccinations would have to be delivered to Taranaki Māori by January and that needed better collaboration from the DHB.

"We on our own will not be able to get those 18,000 jabs before the end of the year. We need the collaboration of all the resources that sit within Taranaki."

Wano said talks between Tui Ora, Te Aranaga and the DHB on Friday morning had been "very constructive."

"I think we've actually turned quite a significant corner and we've committed to a common planning approach… so that we've got a really regional view of what coordinated services could look like."

For now, Māori providers have access to government data only at a suburb-by-suburb level.

In Auckland the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency has taken the Ministry of Health to court for access to street-by-street data.

Wano said the street-by-street data would be essential as the search for the unvaccinated heats up.

"As we get more and more into the population we're going to have to be a lot more localised in our response."

"I think it's going to become almost a door-to-door situation, and that's when that detailed information will be really important."

Wano said there was still time to get things right.

"There's more regular reporting starting to come through in our communications with the DHB and in amongst ourselves, so that's starting to work."

The Prime Minister's visit included a stop at a Tui Ora pop-up clinic at Paritutu Bowling Club in Moturoa.

Ardern personally escorted te reo teacher Bernie Edwards through his first Covid-19 vaccination, as he said he had been "very reluctant" to get jabbed.

"She asked 'Would you like me to come with you' and 'oh my god yes come with me'!"

Edwards said he felt a responsibility to help protect his students at the Western Institute of Technology in Taranaki.

"Now that the reality is starting to set in, this thing's not going away, this is a stayer."