“Te Whatu Ora’s new ‘waitlist equity adjuster tool’ uses five criteria to prioritise patients for planned care, one of which is ethnicity.

“If the first four criteria of clinical need, time already waited, geographical location, and economic deprivation are doing their job, then racial discrimination is not needed. The only possible effect of racial discrimination is to make sure a person in greater need waits longer for an operation and may die on a waiting list because they had the wrong ancestors.

“A person who is in great clinical need, has waited a long time, lives far from major medical facilities, and is poor could be Māori, European, Pacific, Indian or Chinese, and they should all be treated equally.

“This is having the effect of Māori and Pasifika moving up the list and Indian and Chinese dropping down. People who have less need are leapfrogging those who have more need. That’s completely wrong and it’s got to stop.

“This is the Government actively promoting racial discrimination in the health system and it’s causing massive anguish and hurt. It’s a classic example of what’s happening everywhere in the bureaucracy: arguing over identity rather than solving problems.

“New Zealanders are sick and tired of race and the Treaty being injected into everything from water infrastructure and resource management, to healthcare and education.

“Labour says it’s concerned about the ‘postcode lottery’, where patients face unfair differences in access to treatment based on where they live. If Labour was serious about eliminating inequities, it would also get rid of the racial lottery, where patients face unfair differences in access to treatment based on their ethnicity. That means a needy patient can miss out due to their race, and a less needy patient can overtake them.

“Pharmac uses ethnicity criteria for some medicines and they’ve adopted a lower age threshold for Māori and Pasifika to get the flu vaccine. Māori and Pacific patients receive a larger GP subsidy than other New Zealanders. Universities are using Māori and Pasifika quotas to allocate limited places in medical schools.

“New Zealanders are frustrated that people get access just because of who their ancestors were. If that isn’t the very definition of a lottery, I don’t know what is.

“Everywhere I go, I hear people saddened by division, because Labour has divided New Zealand. People are asked to pick a side between tangata whenua and tangata tiriti, with no middle ground. To paraphrase Jacinda Ardern, racial division is not who we are.

“ACT will champion a modern multi-ethnic liberal democratic society by taking racial references out of legislation, defining the principles of the Treaty openly and democratically, and telling the public service that treating people differently based on race is lazy and divisive – they must get better at targeting need equally.”

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