A new paradigm for Māori health is thriving in Hamilton. It’s a model that needs to be funded directly from treasury to Māori, run by Māori and be introduced nationwide, says managing director of primary health organisation Te Kohao Health Ltd, Whaea (Lady) Tureiti Moxon.

“Our health framework for Māori at Te Kohao Health Wellness Centre, Ngā Puna Wai Oranga is treating whānau with a spectrum of needs, non-invasively with noticeable success. We know Māori-led solutions work and the current public health system does not. We brought our recommendations to the attention of the Waitangi Tribunal in our closing submissions this month in the historic Health Services and Outcomes Inquiry,” says Whaea Moxon.

The Wellness Centre is run with a tikanga Māori ethos. It is the only place in New Zealand which offers  hyperbaric oxygen chambers, pulse electro- magnetic field therapy mats and Niagara therapy in the same clinic.

Clients present with a range of conditions from stroke, diabetic ulcers and wound healing through to chronic pain, depression and anxiety, cerebral palsy, ACC sports injuries, arthritis and insomnia.

At the centre the hyperbaric chambers – which were not funded by the DHB or the ministry but by the centre itself – helps the body heal itself.

“It’s a really positive place to come and the treatments helps to heal people mental psychologically and physically. The hyperbaric treatment takes one and a half to two hours, so people have to actually stop.

“Poor people are the most stressed people they are worrying about how to pay bills how to find food for their whanau and dealing with unexpected expenses everyday of their lives. The treatment helps them to actually stop and relax. It’s a social thing too.

“When people are home by themselves with nothing to do and no one to talk to they get depressed and anxious. Coming to the centre gets them out of their houses and gets them amongst people who are about their health needs and outcomes – that support and their progress helps build their own inner confidence in who you are and you how you can …the pain leaves and they feel better about themselves and they have more energy so they are able to take part in normal activities like picking up their mokopuna and get to participate in the healing of their own hearts and minds.

“The treatments gives them back control of their lives and then they are in the space that they can then look at eating better and doing more exercise. Those things are important but if eating well and doing exercise was that easy we’d all do it, Often when treatments are very clinical they can be detrimental in terms of our self esteem,” says Moxon.

To this end, health leaders say the current system is failing Māori and are calling for a Māori-led agency to turn it around.

On average, Māori die seven years earlier than non-Māori. They are twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease or heart failure, and one and a half times more likely to die from stroke or cancer than non-Māori. Rheumatic heart disease rates are five times higher and twice as high for diabetes.

“If these problems were for the majority population, we’d be doing something about them,” says Moxon.

The centre was inspired by a similar centre in Paraparaumu which was pay as you go. And by the treatment the Māori King received in 2015 for his diabetes in Taiwan, says Moxon.

“The Māori King was treated at the Taiwan Veteran Hospital for his diabetes. We went to see how the hyperbaric chambers worked – they had much bigger ones than the small ones we have purchased. And we were impressed by what we saw. The chambers are able to turn back gangrene; and in the past 19 years – there has not been one amputation and not one death from diabetes in all of Taiwan. Whereas here in New Zealand we start with chopping off the toe then to the ankle then to the knee and then higher. We chop off a little bit at a time because we still believe a pill will work.”

The centre is the way forward, she says.

“A lot of our people are quite ill. Often our people only access healthcare when they are dying or in crisis. For many of our people they find hospitals – which there are a place for – foreign. They don’t understand what they are being told or what they have to do. They encounter racism, and often, if they do access healthcare they are put on a very long waiting list and by the time they are contacted to say your appointment is tomorrow – they will have moved, or won’t have that phone number so they don’t get the message don’t go and then get marked DNA – did not attend.”

Whaea Moxon says time and again Māori are let down by the Ministry of Health, She points to the Deloitte paper commissioned by the Ministry of Health that showed Māori PHO’s have been underpaid $348 million since 2005.

“And we want that paid to us. Māori health is extremely political in ways other health isn’t. Funding can depend on the government of the day. Money allocated to the DHB’s by Treasury for Māori have no checks, no regulations or enforcements to ensure that money goes to Māori and so often it doesn’t.

“At the tribunal meetings it is very clear to ministry of health and they acknowledge that the inequalities are out of hand, but they still believe they can improve our people’s health. Our people cannot wait. We’re dying on a daily basis of preventable and detectable diseases. If it were another population it would not be acceptable. As John Tamihere said about Maori health: “they’re normalising the abnormal.”

“The truth of the matter is we have to do something far more radical in terms of prevention and detection of disease earlier Maori can’t change institutional racism and racial biases. We can’t. And to believe that we can is just fooling yourselves. Only those who are racist can change those views and if too many people are in denial about racism and most of them are then it’s never going to change, If policies change but it’s not Maori services or Maori ministry or Maori running programmes it won’t change. When they say we can make changes to the current system to fix this – we say sure off you go and do that kei te pai but we need to step outside of the MInistry of health be directly funded from treasury and do things our way, It’s not about the money it’s about the way we do things, the way we are.”

The centre runs in a low cost no cost way. There are other centres in NZ with these services but they are all pay as you go.

“We visited a centre in Paraparaumu and now our people in Tauranga Moana are setting up a centre similar to ours.”

Does she think that in a post-Christchurch world where politicians want to be kinder and people are more open to accepting that racism exists that it could finally be time for tikanga-focussed healthcare for Māori?

“That’s what we hope. People say that this way of treating our people will cost us money. But we know that ultimately it won’t. It’ll cost less money and save lives.”

Hyperbaric is a specialised therapy that uses an increase in the atmospheric pressure to allow the body to incorporate more oxygen into the blood cells, blood plasma, cerebral-spinal fluid and joint fluids at greater volume. 

Pulse electro-magnetic field therapy mats assist circulation and cell metabolism through a pulsed magnetic field that vibrates through the body. 

Niagara therapy is a cycloid vibration therapy that aims to increase circulation and accelerate the natural recovery time of the body.

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