Topics: Health, Politics, Te Arawa

Axed Māori support services at Rotorua Hospital ignites protest

By Taroi Black
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

Hundreds of people from Ngāti Whakaue marched in a peaceful protest against the axing of a Māori support service at the Rotorua Hospital. Representatives from the Lakes District Health Board met with the iwi and admitted the issue should've been handled better.

Ngāti Whakaue representatives told the LDHB their decision should have been more tikanga based and communication with the iwi around the decision should have been better. The protest was held to raise awareness in support of the five members of the Hunga Manaaki team who were asked to leave last Friday.

Te Whakaruruhau O Ngāti Whakaue says they want Te Hunga Manaaki reinstated. The staff provide advocacy and cultural support for Māori at Rotorua Hospital.

Ngāti Whakaue spokesperson, Kingi Biddle says, “This is another example as we (Te Arawa) have had disputes with the Council regarding our partnership models around our natural resources and local communities. This is a concern to our iwi when there's no consultation process.”

Last Friday five staff who make up the Hunga Manaaki team were asked to leave, despite the contract end date being June 30. One of the staff members Hori Ingram who has worked in the local hospital for the past nine years says he's still in shock.

Ingram says, “Today was very emotional for me and our other staff members since last Friday. It's still hard to comprehend at this stage.”

In response, DHB Board Member Dr Johan Morreau told Te Kāea, “I'd love to see some of our Te Hunga Manaaki appointed into roles, and love to see them part of some kind of system. I just don't know how that's going to pan out on an operational level and I don't know how far things have got.” 

The DHB's CE, Ron Dunham was not present at today's meeting. However, some executive and board members were present and admit that consultation should have been better in terms of the integrity of the five staff who left last week.

Dr Morreau says, “Clearly we're distressed that things have gotten to the point that they have. You know this is not something that anybody would've wanted. My senses that there have been communication issues which invariably at the source of stress for everybody for our Te Kāhui Hunga Manaaki colleagues for our Māori health team for us as commissions, for the board. We're all distressed."

Six doctors started a petition calling for the reinstatement of Hunga Manaaki and today over 2000 people have signed it.

Colin Bennett of Te Kahui Hauora Trust spoke at today’s meeting says, “Looking at this situation positively, I believe both parties can find a solution and that Te Hunga Manaaki is reinstated.”

Te Whakaruruhau o Ngāti Whakaue will meet with the DHB's chairman in early July to discuss the issue further.