Māori cancer leadership organisation Hei Āhuru Mōwai has criticised the Queen's Memorial public holiday because of its effect on Māori health.
The public holiday has caused a delay to many health services across the motu, with fifty-five per cent of surgeries rescheduled.
Dr Nina Scott, co-chair of Hei Āhuru Mōwai and a public health physician (nō Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Waikato) said that it didn’t seem like a major issue but it would have far-reaching consequences.
“You may think that it’s one day but this is huge because we’ve already got a massive backlog, Covid has put us into a really unfortunate position.”
Scott said it was not as simple as moving people back to the next day or week as all of those days were filled up and weekend clinics were being used to try to cut the huge backlog of patients.
'Huge logistical exercise'
At the moment Scott said they were unable to know the extent of the backlog as the number of services still going ahead and which services have been cancelled were not yet known.
“It’s a huge logistical exercise and I don’t think people knew up until the final hour whether they could go ahead.”
“So we don’t actually know what’s going on, we don’t know the numbers and we don’t know how this will affect Māori.”
“But we are concerned that the impact is going to be greater on Māori because we are more likely to get those cancers that require really quick treatment like lung cancer, you need to get in fast just to survive.”
Scott believed Māori doctors at the coal face of the problem had the solutions but weren’t in the positions that allowed them to make an impact, so moving more Māori into decision-making positions would help.
“So we can have more after-hours clinics, increase access to petrol vouchers and accommodation support, start to prioritise Māori into theatre list and make sure we prioritise whānau with urgent cancers that need treatments fast”.