Ngati Whakaue is unhappy with a decision to axe Rotorua Hospital's Maori support service - which ended today with the loss of five jobs and emotional scenes.

Lakes District Health Board ended its contract with Hunga Manaaki service provider Te Kahui Hauora today with five people losing their jobs. The service began 20 years ago to provide advocacy and cultural support for Maori during their time in hospital.

More than 50 iwi members lined the hospital entrance to farewell tearful staff and a hui will be held on Sunday to address iwi concerns over the ending of the contract.

Health board chief executive Ron Dunham said the board was concerned iwi were unhappy but the decision was made with "the very best of intentions" and as part of the DHB's commitment to improving health equity. A wider community-focused service would replace Hunga Manaaki from today.

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Kaumatua Wiremu Keepa told the Rotorua Daily Post the iwi was "totally sad" for its Hunga Manaaki whanau.

"By providing the staff with a guard of honour, it meant that although they were leaving with heavy hearts, they were able to hold their heads high."

Ngati Whakaue said in a statement it was deeply concerned by the decision.

"For many years Hunga Manaaki have provided essential services for Maori who require medical attention at Rotorua Hospital. The service has ensured that culturally appropriate care has been available for our people and that Maori protocol and processes are integrated into the care provided."

Ngati Whakaue is urging the health board and hospital management to remain open to dialogue.

Te Kahui Hauora Trust chief executive Colin Bennett said it was a shame the successful programme had ended.

Mr Dunham said there would now be a new expanded service, based on the Whanau Ora model and "will have a wider community focus instead of solely hospital".

The new service would provide support and care to Maori using Lakes hospitals and mental health services.

"Staff in the new kaupapa Maori DHB service will be part of a bigger team and a wider system. Most of the staff will have a clinical background, with experience across a range of health areas."

The decision to end the contract with Te Kahui Hauora came after a DHB-commissioned evaluation of Hunga Manaaki in 2015.

"The evaluation included other Lakes DHB cultural support services, including the Po Te Atatu service in mental health, and Te Oranga service at Taupo Hospital as well as Hunga Manaaki in Rotorua Hospital. All of the funding for these services will be used for the new service.

"The clear theme from these evaluations was that the kaupapa services needed to change, in order to develop a cohesive, highly skilled team able to work across patients in the hospital setting, in the community and in primary care, to support the patient and his or her whanau on their health journey."

Consultation began in the second half of 2016, he said.