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Imagine a Māori Medical School. Perhaps even in Whakatāne, where prospective medical practitioners are grounded in Te Ao Māori and health science. That’s the ultimate dream for Dr Chris Tooley, the chief executive of Te Puna Ora o Mataatua.

It’s why he is keen to continue the work with Professor Wiremu Doherty, through the memorandum of understanding with Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and develop a pathway to grow skilled Māori health workers.

A memorandum of understanding for cooperation between Te Puna Ora O Mataatua and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, the document was signed by the two chief executives – Dr Tooley and Professor Doherty - in August 2020.

The memorandum seeks to explore the joint development of programmes, services and initiatives in areas of mutual interest. It aims to facilitate cooperation, establish and promote collaborative and mutually beneficial activities to enhance the education, training and employment goals of both institutions.

Over a five-year period, it will develop, enhance and promote positive benefits for each institution and their communities.

Dr Chris Tooley says a clear plan to grow skill base of workers in the Eastern Bay is required as unemployment continuing to rise in the area, particularly among Māori.

Te Puna Ora o Mataatua conducted the wellbeing survey, Tirohanga Oranga o Mataatua, which interviewed more than 1134 people to identify the needs of Māori within the Mataatua rohe. Results showed that 13 per cent of participants lost their job as a result of COVID-19 and Dr Tooley says the health sector provides the best opportunity for turning those numbers around.

“Health is the biggest employment sector in the Eastern Bay. What we want to be able to do with Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi is bridge the relationship between the client and the tertiary qualification so that we get a skilled workforce to fill those jobs.”

In response, Te Puna Ora o Mataatua launched its Health and Medical Academy, Toitū Oranga Toitū Rongoā, through their contract with Te Ara Mahi, to train people in health sector employment.

"The White House" has been leased from TWWOA and is the new site for Toitū Oranga Toitū Rongoā, the new Health & Medical Academy operated by TPOOM/

Once registered with the hub, clients are provided with a customised plan, designed from a Whānau Ora approach. The plan allows clients to receive a range of integrated services including driving lessons, medical check-ups, counselling and addiction interventions, nutrition plans, mana tangata workshops, IT support and financial workshops.

Open to all ages but focussed on those between 25 and 55 years old, the hub provides pathways into health sector jobs in a range of specialities including nursing, counselling, health diagnostics, promotion, administration, health care assistants as well as homebased support and ACC support.  

However, Dr Tooley says healthcare workers would benefit more if they could train and study in Whakatāne. He says currently, our healthcare workers often require transport to Tauranga and Rotorua to further their training and qualifications.

“We are hopeful that through this Memorandum of Understanding, we will be able to work with Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi to develop more programmes that help to grow the Māori health workforce in the Eastern Bay.”

Dr Tooley says he is grateful to be able to partner with a world-class institution such as Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. He says there are many experts within Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi who will be able to help undertake the intention of the memorandum and, with Te Puna Ora o Mataatua, bring it to life.

“I am very excited to be working with Professor Doherty as well as the board and staff of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi to find positive and dynamic pathways for our people to thrive.”

Under the memorandum of understanding, both parties must:

  • Uphold the mana of each institution
  • Make a commitment to open discussion, positive negotiation and a problem-solving approach
  • Explore regular opportunities for dialogue and establish formal mechanisms and processes for communication and input
  • Recognise and respect the diverse strengths and contribution each brings to the partnership
  • Have equal status in decision-making on all matters relating to fulfilling the purpose of this agreement
  • Commit to informing each other of any new information or developments that could impact on the fulfilling the purpose of the memorandum
  • Apply the first-choice approach to each institution in considering future integrated activities.

Dr Tooley says the memorandum is not a legally binding document, nor does it create an agency relationship between the two parties.

“Instead Te Puna Ora o Mataatua and Te Whare Wānanga o Awauiārangi agree that any specific activities will be documented in separate and formal agreements. Under the memorandum, we are encouraged to initiate proposals for activities and initiatives at any time and it does prevent cooperation with any other external parties.”

TPOOM has been training nurses in kaupapa Māori practices well before the academy was established. Featured above are TPOOM nurses with student nurses at one of the mobile COVID-19 testing sites.

Dr Tooley says while the focus for Te Puna Ora o Mataatua will be on developing a clear pathway for healthcare workers, the partnership formed as a result of the memorandum could provide benefits in several other areas too.

“The potential is enormous. Te Puna Ora o Mataauta and Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi are both focussed on enabling flourishing and thriving communities. Therefore, our intention to collaborate and partner is joined in clear goal. I am looking forward to getting around the table and figuring how we progress projects that are mutually beneficial to both institutions.”

A joint board will be established to evaluate future cooperation under the memorandum. Te Puna Ora o Mataatua and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi will appoint up to two governance and two executive members to the board with the chief executives representing their respective institutions.

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