A Pasifika Doctor talks about the Junior Doctor strike – an interview with Dr Maria Peach

Kia orana kotou katoatoa

Dr Maria Peach is a part of the Pacific Panther Network and was on strike as a junior doctor. #PPN asks her some questions about why she was on strike and how this issue impacts our Māori and Pasifika communities.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Our mother comes from the Cook Islands, our grandparents from Mangaia, Rarotonga, Atiu and Mitiaro. Our father is from the U.K, our grandparents from England, Ireland and Scotland.
Our Cook Islands grandparents were part of the migration to Aotearoa in the 60s and lived initially on Franklin Road in Ponsonby, where they have all the Christmas lights now. They were part of the move out south, being offered state housing so the inner city, could essentially be gentrified. Our roots are centred in Ōtara, Papatoetoe and Mangere. We have connections in Ōtāhuhu and further south to Manurewa and Papakura. Basically Manukau City is home.
After a number of years working in hospitality in Australia, I came home to do medicine and have just returned back to Tāmaki Makaurau after living in Whangarei and Ōtepoti . It’s awesome to be home.

Dr Maria Peach
Dr Maria Peach

What is the junior doctors strike about?
Its about keeping hospitals safe for people. It’s the 2nd strike, lasting 3 days for our union members, who range from doctors in the first year out of medical school, to up to 12 years experience.
We want to reduce a 12 day roster to 10 days and 7 nights to 3, around all hospitals in Aotearoa.
We work these rosters in an environment that has changed over the years. The population has increased, cases have become more complex with people having many health issues. The political environment has also changed and hence health policy has changed. We are asked to work these rosters in conditions that are tailored to suit the market and not the needs of people. Some rosters around the country have already been changed but many haven’t.

Why are these issues important to you?
The main reason is safety. Working 12 days in a row and 7 nights in a row, takes its toll. The quality of care we give patients, isn’t the greatest under fatigue. Making decisions when we are tired can lead to mistakes and none of us like giving that kind of care. We want to reduce the days we work, to reduce the risk of harming people we care for.
How does this impact on Pacific and Māori communities?
Many of our people use public hospitals and this is the quality of care they are receiving. They are being cared for by overworked and tired doctors when already having difficulty accessing healthcare in the community due to expense and the costs of living. To come to hospital and to be treated by fatigued doctors who have an increased risk of making mistakes because we are tired, is unacceptable.

How has neoliberalism impacted on health services for our communities?
Neoliberalism, the idea the market rules and there should be less government responsibility and more individual responsibility for health choices, has a huge impact on the well-being of our Pacific and Māori communities.
For example the impact of factors like gentrification, poverty, racism and funding cuts to services, are largely ignored under neoliberalism.
Governments have a responsibility to ensure good health for people as well.
Many of our communities are experiencing gentrification, so wealthy investors can make a buck off the land our homes are situated in. Whānau are losing their homes they have had for decades. This is destructive to their well-being.
In the GP setting, Māori are discriminated against and are less likely to be referred to specialists care than non- Māori. This means they are treated less quicker than non-Māori. Neoliberal philosophy holds individuals responsible for health choices, but this is clearly not an individual choice to be referred less by GPs to specialist care.
Many of our Pacific and Māori communities contributed to building companies like Fisher and Paykel. Recently there has been restructuring and in an effort to save money, jobs were cut at the East Tamaki factory leaving over 100 whānau jobless. The decision to let people go, was not an individual choice but a company choice. The health and well being of these whānau will be severely impacted with the loss of incomes.
Neoliberalism pumps out health messages about individuals taking responsibility for their health, while neglecting all the structural factors.
It’s not good enough, that our people internalise these messages on health while governments ignore their social responsibilities. There is no place for neoliberalism in health care.