Tight focus on trials of the terminally ill
An Opononi woman who is using Ma¯ori healing methods to battle cancer is making a documentary film that highlights a lack of taxpayer-funded financial support for the terminally ill.
Former school teacher Tanya Filia was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme Grade 4, a form of brain cancer, in 2013, and underwent chemotherapy and radiation.
After a year of treatment, she went into remission, but in 2015 her headaches were back and she was told she had two months to live.
It was then that she took her chances on rongoa¯ Ma¯ori and natural therapies.
She prays, has mirimiri or spiritual massages, drinks herbal teas made especially for her by tohunga matakite or Ma¯ori spiritual healers, and takes vitamin C intravenously. However, not all her treatments are subsidised, and her wha¯nau is struggling to pay for them.
Ms Filia is able to access publicly-funded rongoa¯ Ma¯ori for one hour every fortnight at Hokianga Hospital, and has set aside $272 per week to help pay for her vitamin C and other drugs, including silvestrol.
Ms Filia said she was inspired to fight for terminally ill patients by former Whanga¯rei police officer Anton Kuraia, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a type of blood cancer that is usually fatal within months. Before he died early last year he walked 809km from Whanga¯rei to Wellington to raise awareness and money for fighting cancer naturally.
With the help of her friend Jessie McVeagh, from Rawene, Ms Filia made a 32-minute documentary, He Oranga Pumau, about her healing journey, which has screened throughout Northland and at Parliament.
The former Kohukohu School principal is now making an hourlong documentary that will be submitted to the New Zealand Film Festival with a view to highlighting a lack of government subsidies for cancer treatment drugs.
“Previous governments, and the current government, have turned their backs on terminally ill patients. The only thing they do is to refer you to hospitals and chaplains,” she said.
“We’re proactively trying to make a change towards better care and support for all terminally ill patients and their families in New Zealand. People should have a right to choose the type of treatment they prefer.”
Alison Thom, from the Ministry of Health, said governments over the years had contracted traditional health practitioners to support rongoa Ma¯ori within the health and disability sector.
“This work is ongoing,” she said.
“We’ve also engaged with the rongoa¯ wha¯nau, including traditional healers, Ma¯ori health providers and iwi around the role traditional healing can have with mainstream services.”
The ministry currently provided $1.9 million or rongoa Ma¯ori across 18 providers throughout the country, and had recently renewed contracts for the next three years.
Tanya Filia is pushing for drugs for terminally ill patients to be subsidised.