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Harawira weighs in on the saga of Dr Lance O’Sullivan

Harawira weighs in on the saga of Dr Lance O’Sullivan Eds: A contingent of Te Arawa made the long journey to the Far North yesterday to tautoko and show their support of Dr Lance O’Sullivan at a hui held by the community (the 3rd which has been held each without Board attendance). Dr Lance, who recently resigned from Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika after issues with the Board emerged which seriously challenged to his ability to continue to work.

MP Hone Harwira has weighed in on the issue and published this in yesterday’s Northland Age.

(Hone Harawira, Ae Marika!) The saga of Doctor Lance has not been good for the far north’s favourite doctor (and his family) and even less so for the region’s largest Maori health clinic, Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika.

What is very clear though is that there is huge support for Doctor Lance O’Sullivan who has chosen a path of challenging the normal way of doing things, of using the media to criticise failure in government policies, and where necessary criticise failure closer to home, at Hauora, where up until a few weeks ago he worked.

But Lance is not just a doctor. He is also a great role model. He is a Maori doctor who is passionate about Maori health. His is happily married to a fine woman, Tracey, and they have (the last time I counted) seven wonderful children. He is an iron-man competitor not averse to the odd bit of skulduggery on the rugby league field. He is a passionate speaker on Maori health and when he puts something in the paper everyone reads it.

And he is much loved by his patients because he offers them something that most have never had before … a Maori doctor who understands and cares about what makes Maori people tick, who speaks the reo, and who clearly has their best interests at the core of his being.

And I must make a couple of points here. From all I hear, Lance is as well loved by his Pakeha patients as he is his Maori patients. And, from all I hear, the non-Maori doctors at Hauora care for their Maori patients as much as they do for their non-Maori ones. But having a Maori doctor is something special for Maori people because you can tell a Maori doctor jokes that you wouldn’t tell anyone else and you can tell them problems you know they will understand. And, I suspect, Maori people actually feel better just having a Maori doctor.

Hauora has come a long way from a group of mostly Maori women wanting better health for Maori, to an organisation owned by all the iwi in Muriwhenua, very well set up, professionally run, and offering a range of high quality health services to Maori (and anyone else who wants a great health service) that the far north never had before. For that, Hauora CEO Bill Halkyard can take great credit.

But I suspect there are others within Hauora who struggle with Lance’s way of doing things. The trick though is to recognise the difference and build on that not try to crush it; to accept that there are different ways of doing things and create pathways to get the best of both worlds; where Lance can continue to operate the way he does – it may not be conventional but it works for his patients – and Hauora does what it does best and also leverages off his leadership and celebrity status to capture attention and force authorities to focus funding in areas they had previously ignored.

Sometimes its necessary for a parting of the ways between a renegade and his family, but I hope we can get both parties back together for the benefit of the people. Lance is too good a doctor, and Hauora is too good an organisation for us to lose the value of either for too long.

And remember folks … this is a small community. We all shop at Pak ‘n Save, our kids all play together, and at the end of the day we all want the best outcome for the health and wellbeing of our community. Kia kaha tatou.

(14) Comments

  1. atihana m Johns

    Kia Ora: Am I to understand that Dr. Sullivan has been criticized by the Hau Ora for his public speaches against poverty and the like? I recall that he told the story of children (Maori) eating food from a container meant for pigs. Is that all it was? Was the Hau Ora critical of his revelation? They should indeed be ashamed that that is happening and shouldn't go into denial mode.

  2. sue jones

    At the end of the day I thinks its disgraceful and a sad representation of the state of our country, that Lance a man who is brave enough to speak up for the ones who matter Our Children, who are suffering from presentable diseases, gets punished for it.... yeah there is a contract involved, targets to meet, rules to follow to ensure the funding is maintained, but theres a bigger picture here and this man is simply doing the right thing and using his heart, not his head!!!! I support Lance 100 percent and the members of the board should be ashamed of themselves!!!!!............ Government should get behind his issue, get housing, health and education working together, and have contracts for providers which are not based solely on monetry outcomes.. At the end of the day our children are suffering, nothing else should even matter!!! Much respect to Dr Lance, and his mana and integrity I say the board members, iwi leaders and Government could learn alot from this man.. He is an absolute ASSET not a LIABILITY...

  3. Marcella de la Rosa

    I am dissapointed in the way you people (meaning the board)were treating my uncle that way .shame on you!you are probably losing your best doctor and I pity you. I am so angry I can't forget it you made a mistake a very big mistake and I am going to stand up for him cause he is my family. :( Marcella De La Rosa 10 years old

  4. kimi

    Maybe his presence and stance on what he believes, is not that of the te hiku o te ika hauora trust board, and new blood is known to ruffle feathers, I say good on him, as the saying goes if it aint broke fix it, well the health and well being of the tamariki and the elderly in the te tai tokerau region is broke, so needs fixing.. Maybe some need to get off their high horse and let someone with the passion and the know how on how to tackle the problems walk his talk, as i know he is quite capable of doing this. Shame on the people with the small town syndrome whom may have lost one of the best doctors who had the well being of the community at the fore front of his crusade... keep on keeping on doc..

  5. Josephine Pomare

    I live in Western Australia Perth for at least 18 or so years my mother Kiri Pomare now resides here in Perth with me and my sisters my mother spoke highly of her doctor in Kaitaia where she once lived which is DR Lance O'Sullivan I don't think my mother has read this story lately but if they can't get it right for DR Lance O'Sullivan I'm sure there are plenty of our maori people living here north of the river Joondalup in Perth would be very greatful to have a maori doctor practice right here in our suburb and I think we as a community of maori's will welcome DR O'Sullivan and his whanau here in Joondalup and he will be well taken care of by the goverment state of WA my mother will be so greatful to see him again my mum lives very happy and well she finds that the health system here has done her health very well really blessed that my mum is still with us today pottering out in her garden as normal but we have to keep reminding her of the spiders but she's a tuffy love you mum Jo.

  6. Nikki de la Rosa

    In response to the writers choice of word selection, "renegade" is perhaps not a wise choice of words in this situation..... Let's be clear matter of "family", in this context of this article the reference is "Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika" they are NOT his "family"! The board and the CEO have not acted with integrity nor sound ethics in relationship to this sad debarcle, their lack of support towards Lance is shameful. Their collective behaviour has simply deluded us, his family. Any decent functional "family" does not treat one another in this way. Certainly we his "family" do not. When Lance and his whanau were handed to the people of Kaitaia 6 years ago, we left the powhiri with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude based on a promise that both Lance and his whanau would be welcomed and cherished by the people to include his new employer. Nga tangata o Kaitaia have delivered on that promise but Te Hauora o te Hiku o Te Ika has not embraced that promise. Arohamai ki a koutou! Lance's passion combined with his fierce commitment to effect improved healthcare services for his people will no doubt build an even stronger resolve allowing him to achieve this precise goal in the future. In closing I do not associate nor accept Lance is a "renegade" he simply is a Maori Doctor with a huge heart for his people and his work as a GP, just let him get on with his mahi! Kia kaha mo tou mahi rawe taku teina! Ngehe


    dissapointed iam proud of my son andalso to whakapapa on my mums side kiakaha me and nans by your side and your wonderful family im right there by you kiaora son dad

  8. Hona Wikeepa

    What does he know about dialectical method in human reason? If he doesn't know, he cannot help anyone. People reason upon a particular integration point in understanding reality. What would that look like in order for an implicit truth about something to be possible? This is why we have a Bible in our courts as it represents a valid reasoning and expressing process. Where are the Maori philosopher's? Lawyers and medical doctors don't know enough.

    1. H Wereta

      I'm not sure what it is you are saying Hona. It simply doesn'ts make sense. What is sad though is we have a young Maori doctor who is passionate about what he does for his community. Although I can understand the tension between the organisations policy, the need to manage funds its received, and the opportunity to deliver low cost services, its always a very fine line. If the Board was prudent in the way it manages its responsibilities for Maori, then we would have the other criticism of 'bro's looking after bro's' or corruption. But, I honestly support his criticism and independent view. As I read Hones article, and the carious comments, there is no doubting that he is very much loved by the community. I am sure that a compromise could be found.

  9. Irihapeti Waaka

    Sorry to say but these governance structures Suck specially in the Pakeha whakaaro. And what a shame theyre gonna lose a good role model. Kia Kaha to the community.

  10. Hinerangi Himiona

    This is the first I have read of this situation, but it does not surprise me at all. Without knowing the gory details, I think this is a sad situation that will continue to happen to our committed, clever & connected Maori professionals who chose to move home and work with our people. The funds that come to pay for health services and therefore people like Dr Lance O'Sullivan, come from central government with their strings firmly attached in the form of 'outcomes for Maori' etc. These are then shaped into contracts that are signed by, administered and managed by boards/committees/trusts at home...trouble is the government departments conceive these 'contracts' in Wellington and formulate policy & processes that once they get to places like Kaitaia, might as well be in sanskrit! The boards/committees/trusts then do their best to deliver on what they've signed up to, but when the professionals working at the coalface come up against a piece of policy that does not suit or serve the real people and situations they are working with something has got to give. It is always the board/committee/trust that ends up being the meat in the sandwich - unable to deliver well to the unhappy parties either side of them. I think the reason is simple and so too the answer, formulate policy, procedures and outcomes in the communities who need them most, who have the most to lose if they do not work for them. No one in Wellington really loses, maybe a slap over the hand at their performance review, but very rarely are the repercussions ever comparable to the losses and stresses suffered by people living in those communities. Look at what has happend in this situation, ka aroha! No good has ever come or will ever come from formulating solutions for communities in Wellington. I am not hating on our friends and whanaunga that work in Wellington, but most of you have become disconnected from your communities and have built a 'Maori reality' down there that bares very little resemblance to real communities and people at home. Our boards/trusts/committees at home definitely need to sharpen up and stay sharp, don't let yourselves be bullied into choosing between the your loyalty and commitment to the needs of your communities and those that can help you most meet those needs. Kia kaha ra koutou.

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