The politics around cancer need to end & a clear plan put in place: NZ Maori Council


“I would say this – the one upmanship around this issue has to end. Sure, each political party must try and differentiate itself but we, as a nation, can agree on the big things that affect all of us. Cancer is one of those things. All new Zealanders must be given a fighting chance when it comes to their ability to lead long and healthy lives – Maori need the same chance but the playing field is harder.” Matthew Tukaki, Executive Director of the New Zealand Maori Council.

The New Zealand Maori Council has welcomed the Government’s announcement of an increase in funding for more equipment in the regions for cancer care but says its too little and a plan is needed if we are going to close the gap when it comes to Maori and cancer. Matthew Tukaki, talking at a hui in Wellington on the issue of Maori Affairs, has said it’s a small step in the right direction:

“First of all this is not a bidding war between Labour and National when it comes to cancer care in this country. In fact both sides should be sitting down with health groups, Maori and others to find a way forward. The reality is cancer has no postcode, it has no gender specific identifier and impacts New Zealanders of all races and ethnic groups.” Tukaki said

“When it comes to Maori, we are confronted by higher than per head of population rates and the lack of access and affordability to life saving and life extending medications. It is tougher and more expensive for us to gain access to treatments in the regions so there is no doubt this is a good announcement by the Government. But it also needs to be qualified with the timing and the fact we need a workforce to meet the demand in the regions. In fact that part of it can be an opportunity and I call on our young people who are in their last years of high school to consider a career in pathology, radiology, cancer care and more.” Tukaki said

“But we still need to do the following: We need to finalize an early access program for cancer treatments and medications as well as an overhaul of the funding model around PHARMAC. We need to review the current list of unscheduled medications and look at who we might be able to fund what has already been approved as well as an early access treatment plan. Now; if that also includes negotiating with other countries for bulk purchasing arrangements then so be it.” Tukaki said

“For Maori what I want to see is the development of rapid diagnostic centers for people with serious but not specific symptoms that could be cancer – this is like the National Health Service model in the UK but where it could be specific to Maori and our communities. In fact, it could be part of a broader approach to diagnosis but where we could also learn more about some of the societal factors involved in pre and post diagnosis.” Tukaki said

“In addition to this is who we build the workforce up through a non-regulated means (carers and so on) when it comes to supporting people post diagnosis who are living with cancer and that also includes a broader workforce development for cancer support, treatment and diagnosis.” Tukaki said

“Finally, I would say this – the one upmanship around this issue has to end. Sure, each political party must try and differentiate itself but we, as a nation, can agree on the big things that affect all of us. Cancer is one of those things. All new Zealanders must be given a fighting chance when it comes to their ability to lead long and healthy lives – Maori need the same chance but the playing field is harder.” Tukaki said

The New Zealand Maori Council is currently finalizing its submission to the Maori Affairs Select Committee of the Parliament in relation to health disparities and cancer.

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