Iwi vaccinator says direct Government funding coming soon

Ritihia Waller and her partner Tawera Reihana got vaccinated at Rangatapu Marae.

Craig Ashworth/LDR

Ritihia Waller and her partner Tawera Reihana got vaccinated at Rangatapu Marae.

A South Taranaki iwi health provider says the Government will soon be funding its vaccination effort, after weeks running pop-up clinics at its own expense.

Ngāruahine Iwi Health Services was at Rangatapu Marae on Thursday, the fifth in a series of weekly pop-up vaccination clinics at marae across the iwi’s rohe.

The service’s kaiwhakarite (manager) Warren Nicholls said vaccinators came from fellow health provider Tui Ora and from the Taranaki District Health Board.

But he said the clinics had otherwise been paid for from Ngāruahine Iwi Health Services’ own funds, with support from Te Korowai o Ngāruahine, the iwi’s Treaty-settlement entity.

“As an iwi provider we’ve had next-to-no resource… We have to fund it, we have to take it on the chin.”

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Māori health providers across the country have criticised the Government for holding back resources they need to get Māori vaccinated.

Nicholls says the only Covid funding for Ngāruahine Iwi Health Services had been for a call centre to reach iwi members and book them for vaccination at nearby clinics.

But he said that was about to change.

“There have been very recent conversations with the DHB and the ministry that are now going to open up those funding lines. I know that in the last two weeks there’s been lots of heightened conversations to make that happen.”

Nicholls said the DHB and Ministry of Health had agreed there is a problem and money would now come directly from the ministry.

“It’ll be for the whole roll-out plan, any future clinics we run, marae pop-ups or community clinics – it’ll be for every resource required.”

Nicholls said the health service also now had priority from the ministry to train six to ten of its own vaccinators and that would begin almost immediately.

He said the marae clinics had averaged 30 to 50 vaccinations, and last week at Waiokura Marae in Manaia had over 80 jabs.

At Rangatapu Marae at Ohawe yesterday, 29-year-old Sharnie Gardiner got her second shot, after getting her first a month earlier at Aotearoa Pā.

“It’s just the manaakitanga the aroha that the haukainga (home people) give.”

Audra Aneff brought her son and two friends for jabs as part of her whānau effort to protect three generations in their home.

“We’re trying to do like a papakāinga, where we’re bringing our elders home and trying to keep them safe in a really good environment, providing them all the protection we can.”

STUFF

The Pfizer vaccine enters your body, does its thing, and is then destroyed. It does not alter your DNA.

Paerau Dillon has brother and sister who are too young for Covid vaccination.

“My mum told me I had to come and get it to better the wellbeing of the hapū the whānau and the iwi.”

“It’s nice to come here, you feel very welcome and you get to sit and talk with ppl you know. And the food’s nice.”

Ritihia Waller works for Te Korowai o Ngāruahine so had helped at the previous marae clinics.

Being 32-weeks pregnant, she had been unsure about vaccination but was finally vaccinated at Rangatapu.

She said she had researched the vaccine’s safety, but discussions on the marae had helped her decide.

“Just being in this environment in the last four clinics. Our people are much more comfortable because this is something that’s quite familiar to all of us.”

Warren Nicholls said marae clinics offered aroha and manaakitanga in a place where whānau felt most safe and in control.

“We want to be purposeful in targeting Māori, so why not create an environment where they feel most comfortable on papakāinga, on marae, it’s a no-brainer for us.”

Nicholls estimated 60 to 70 percent of those getting vaccinated at the marae would be unlikely to go for jabs elsewhere.

He said one woman had received conflicting advice from three calls to her GP service, but on the marae had a 90-minute conversation addressing her concerns about her particular health conditions.

“Often clinical spaces don’t allow enough time for these conversations to be held. We want an environment where time’s not the dictator.”