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Māori nurses demand Budget closes health gap

Nurses and kaimahi working for Māori and Iwi health providers are hoping tomorrow’s Budget helps ease the daily struggle they face to deliver services to their communities.

Te Runanga o Aotearoa New Zealand Nurses Organisation delegate and rural nurse Gina Chaffey-Aupouri says those planning the Budget need to significantly understand the shortfalls health workers in the Māori and Iwi sector face in terms of equity.

She said the government was taking away anything that looks like funding services based on race and not need, but it needed to take a deeper look before withdrawing this support.

"By taking away these funds they’re perpetuating inequities because they're not addressing the structural discrimination that currently exists in the health system.

"These decisions are made are being made by people who don't understand the cultural context and therefore judge people as all the same."

Also on her wish list is specific funding to support professional development opportunities within the provider groups, and community-led services where it was difficult to fill vacant positions.

"What we've seen is a gradual removal of budget to frontline services and that meant that there had to be compromises and further compromises until there’s very little left.

"Currently, we're not able to offer primary health care and we’re seeing services being closed because of that lack of funding. People can see that in the aged care services where wards that have been shut down.

"We've also got services which were once 24-hour ED services closing at five o’clock or GP practices have either closed because of supply and demand issues or they just don't have staff available."

Ms Chaffey-Aupouri said rural communities were more limited and lacked even basic services.

"If they need to get treatment many people would take for granted, they have to plan trips around getting to these services many kilometres away."

She called for increased sustainable funding for Iwi Māori partnership boards which will allow engagement and consultation on health within Māori communities.

Ms Chaffey-Aupouri said studies have proven that people who live in rural New Zealand have poorer health outcomes, and this was worse for Māori who also have lower life expectancy.

"I’d like to make sure there’s adequate funding set aside that supports programmes of counselling, mentoring and support. Also, there’s a huge need in suicide prevention.

"We’ve got to help, especially the rural communities. It affects everyone not just Māori and Iwi.

"When you choose to live in rural communities, you’re aware that it does isolate you - but the right to culturally appropriate health services provided by fairly paid staff remains."

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