Government announces $140m new funding for Māori and Pacific Omicron response

By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.

Associate Minister of Health Peeni Henare. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The $140 million of new funding was announced by government ministers at Ngā Whare Waatea in South Auckland on Tuesday morning.

The funding is on top of that announced last week for support to those self-isolating with Covid-19, or as close contacts.

“We know Omicron is likely to disproportionately affect Māori and Pasifika communities and the government is committed to making sure vulnerable whānau received the support and care they deserve,” Associate Minister of Health Peeni Henare said in a statement announcing the funding.

For years, Māori and Pacific health providers have operated in their communities on limited resource, especially when compared to the rest of the health system.

That was brought into stark relief in the Delta outbreak, where providers were thrust into the spotlight as Māori and Pacific became fast infected, and the vaccination rollout in those communities initially struggled.

“We saw that in action when Māori vaccination rates increased from 69 percent to 90 percent for first dose in just 3.5 months,” Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson said in the same statement.

A $120m tranche of funding announced last year was criticised, with providers having to go through an application process.

At a Waitangi Tribunal hearing into the Covid-19 response for Māori in December, providers criticised it for in some instances, being cumbersome, bureaucratic and slow to arrive.

This time the money would go direct to 160 Māori and Pacific health providers as well as Whānau Ora services, Jackson said.

“I want to encourage innovative Pacific models of care with a focus on the immediate Omicron response. I want to communicate key public health messages in culturally appropriate ways,” Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said.

Henare said the funding would help providers scale up their response in their communities, which mainstream services often struggle to reach or understand.

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