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New group sets sights on health inequities

Garrick Emms. PHOTO/FILE

South Wairarapa councillor Garrick Emms has taken the lead in creating a group to help address health inequity concerns in the district.

At the Maori Standing Committee [MSC] meeting on Tuesday night, he called for nominees to join the group which would discuss a “way forward” for South Wairarapa residents.

The move comes after concerns were raised by medical practitioners at a previous MSC meeting.

Dr Harsha Dias from Featherston Medical, Dr Steve Philip from Martinborough Health Centre and Corina Ngatai, a nurse practitioner, spoke to the MSC at the end of September and said the health funding structure for South Wairarapa meant some services were not accessible to residents, particularly those who lived remotely.

This is because a bulk of Wairarapa health services were based in Masterton.

Emms initially raised his intention to create a health group or forum to councillors at last week’s full South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] meeting.

The move was met with enthusiasm from fellow elected members and councillor Leigh Hay expressed interest in joining the group.

Emms signalled that district health boards across New Zealand were set to be replaced by a single national agency, Health NZ.

He said creating a group to address health issues would be a catalyst for solutions and would ensure South Wairarapa was not left behind.

“We don’t need to limit ourselves just to Maori health concerns. It could be across everybody and all minoritiy groups,” he said at last week’s SWDC meeting.

“If there are going to be major changes with the DHB, this puts us on top of it.”

Mayor Alex Beijen said the equity and focus of the Wairarapa District Health Board [DHB] in South Wairarapa had been “an issue from day one of this council”.

“I think the establishment of a group, with the DHB included, to make sure any issues are being addressed, makes perfect sense.”

Membership of the group was yet to be confirmed.

It was expected the initiative would develop into a governance group in South Wairarapa co-ordinating among the three medical centres, the council, the MSC, and other key stakeholders. – NZLDR

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