Thursday, December 9

Henare says he’s having ‘awkward conversations’ about Maori vaccination rates

Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare says the status of the Covid-19 vaccine launch means we are “on the brink of a future or a significant failure.”

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Whānau Ora’s Minister, Peeni Henare
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Henare (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi) met with iwi healthcare providers from all over Te Tai Tokerau in Whangārei to discuss coronary heart disease and lagging Maori vaccination rates.

Less than 50 percent of eligible Maori have received their first vaccination in Northland, one of the worst rates in the country.

The minister acknowledged the heavy workload of iwi suppliers and assured them that he supports them.

He said he was having “awkward conversations … to confront our DHBs and tell them ‘you said you would do this and I’m here to make sure it happened.’

“If not, there will be repercussions.”

Those attending the meeting also had a challenge to pose to Minister Henare.

They said the funding had been piecemeal.

Whakawhiti Ora Pai General Manager Errol Murray (Te Aupouri, Ngāti Kuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa, Ngāi Takoto) said that his organization had received money, but that it was only to pay for additional staff, not the infrastructure they need .

“Right now we have a labor shortage here in the north and that kind of capacity might not be available.

“We don’t need FTE, some of us need motorhomes to be able to have more mobility without having to rent at these high prices.”

Kia Ora Ngāti Wai CEO Lynette Stewart said a big part of the problem was that Maori healthcare providers did not have sufficient funds for the pandemic, and they needed to be entrusted with more overall funding for implementation.

“Much of the money that we have now, we are so busy accounting for it, it is difficult to put it down and get out,” he told the hui.

“I bought two transit vans a couple of years ago, Hallelujah. Because it took me five years to save for those. So we were on the cusp. But many of my colleagues here today don’t have those transit vans.” “

Hauora Hokianga Executive Director Margareth Broodkoorn (Ngāpuhi) said hitting the most isolated communities was working.

But not everyone has welcomed vaccinators with open arms.

“We had our little protesters on the other side of the road and they gave their opinion, they had their little signs and the little haka they did.”

To further complicate matters, he told Minister Henare that some staff members were also hesitant about vaccines.

“Support us as healthcare providers to go down the path of saying ‘actually all of our kaimahi should be vaccinated.’ And as an organization, we are currently sitting with 60 percent of our staff that are vaccinated. We can’t say ‘you should’ because we don’t we are allowed, because we would have our unions in our case. “

The CEO of Te Hauora or Ngāpuhi, Te Ropu Poa (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Te Rino, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu) had a solution for that, with hints of humor.

“If the kaimahi aren’t vaccinated, they get tested every Thursday … and then they put their apprentices there because they’ll get tired of getting their noses poked and vaccinated.”

Minister Henare assured that the hui the whakaaro would be transmitted to Wellington by his team.

“I’m sick and tired of ‘what a great breakfast it was’ and then nothing followed.”

He also met with Northland DHB staff, GPs, pharmacists, and Whangārei Boys High School staff today.

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