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South Wairarapa’s ‘lost tribe’

Martinborough Health Centre. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

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South Wairarapa medical practitioners are raising concerns about the quality of Maori healthcare across the district.

Dr Harsha Dias from Featherston Medical, Dr Steve Philip from Martinborough Health Centre and Corina Ngatai, a nurse practitioner, spoke to the Maori Standing Committee about Maori health issues in the district at last week’s meeting.

They spoke on behalf of all practices in South Wairarapa, including Greytown.

Ngatai’s role was mainly to engage with people who did not usually actively seek medical care. This included people who were not enrolled with practices or who were enrolled but seldom, if ever, came in to be seen.

“The biggest problem with South Wairarapa is we have whanau who need social support, financial support and have complex health issues,” she said.

“The large majority of our patients are living remotely.”

Ngatai described them as a “lost tribe”.

“Those are the people that haven’t presented to a provider for one reason or another. My job will be to get out there in the community,” she said.

Ngatai said the funding structure for South Wairarapa meant extra services were often not accessible and funding that should be coming into the district was not.

“The funding goes to Masterton providers. It doesn’t come to us in the south,” she said.

“We don’t really know what funding they get. Outside our practices, we need social workers, mental health workers and others so we can connect our families with those services so they can be treated in a holistic way. We are not getting that here.

“We’ll send a referral, they’ll send people out, and they’ll promise things, but they don’t commit, and there’s no follow-up. There’s no plan, and there’s no information or data that’s given back,” she said.

Philip said Masterton-based organisations would tender to provide services in the south, but the services were often not provided.

“They might come and visit a few times but then would fall by the wayside, and we would end up not seeing them,” he said.

He said this meant South Wairarapa residents missed out and didn’t get the same level of support people in Masterton did.

“I think we should, as a group, work towards changing that story.”

He asked the committee to consider how they could contribute to fixing the problem.

Committee member Toni Kerr described the funding issue as significant.

“Our committee is a voluntary, small organisation. From a Kaupapa Maori and a hauora perspective, it’s a concern we would have,” she said.

Kerr referenced broader community involvement and responses that would help address the issue.

“There is a bigger picture issue, and I think there needs to be a korero among ourselves to understand how this aligns with some of the areas we are exploring as part of our broader strategy and then who are the other parties that might be involved.”

She asked if public information about how funds were allocated across the region could be shared as a starting point.

“What have you got that could be made available,” she asked.

The committee agreed the matter would be raised at the Wairarapa Leaders Social Wellbeing Forum in Masterton.

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