Waitangi Court heard about the poor quality of care for disabled Maori in remote areas and the difficulty for care providers to help them due to funding disparities.
The tribunal is holding the final stage of its long Hauora inquiry this week, this time into the experiences of tangata whaikaha – disabled Maori.
Tracy Clarke presented evidence to the panel about the treatment of her son Brannen Clarke-Baker who was born in Hokianga with a lump in the head.
Clarke took him to several area doctors, but was told he was fine and his head was growing.
Eventually she took him to Auckland where she discovered he needed invasive surgery to remove a hematoma.
Clarke said she felt judged despite everything she could.
“Nobody believed me and the medical staff looked at me like it was my fault that I hadn’t come sooner, [like] It’s my fault I didn’t ask for help sooner.”
A surgeon and an anesthesiologist had traveled from Australia to perform the operation.
“They came and they said it was a very dangerous surgery, that they had to cut his forehead and peel the skin, then cut the bone, remove the bone, reshape it because the bones had fused sooner than expected. they should,” Clarke said.
The whānau are originally from Hokianga, at the top of the North Island, but had to move to Auckland for Brannen, who suffered brain damage.
The Maori health service Hauora Hokianga told the court that it lacked resources to help tangata whaikaha.
Hauora Hokianga’s chief executive, Margareth Broodkoorn, said she needed better funding and resources.
“The remoteness of the region and health services can lead to delays in providing care and support,” Broodkoorn said.
“Several examples can be provided where a patient’s discharge is delayed due to unavailability of equipment or home modifications not being completed in a timely manner and this is due, for example, to the availability of a tradesman.”
Broodkoorn said 96% of Hokianga’s population was considered high need.
And she said the funding was unfair.
“Our contract is $3 less than other suppliers are contracted in Hokianga, when we addressed this issue or asked Te Whatu Ora why this is the case, we were not given any reasonable justification as to why there is has a difference in that funding,” Broomkoorn said.
Economist Richard Meade was armed with charts and said Hauora Hokianga’s disability support services were underfunded at more than $68 million over nearly three decades.
The hearing is scheduled to continue for the rest of the week.