Kuia receiving cancer treatment calls for more Māori nurses

By Jessica Tyson

A woman receiving chemotherapy for leukemia at Middlemore Hospital is calling for more Māori nurses and better care for Māori patients.

Te Uriwa Papuni is a former nurse at the hospital and was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia three years ago.

After having a stroke in November last year, the cancer reached an acute level requiring her to start chemotherapy treatment.

She says she’d like to see a Māori training programme where the nurses are paid to train, separate to the programme being run today.

“Eighteen percent of the population in South Auckland are Māori and only a handful of Māori nurses are working at Middlemore. That’s shocking,” she says.

Clinical nurse director of Māori Health at Counties Manukau District Health Board, Delanie Nepia says there are 184 nurses working at Middlemore Hospital, representing nine percent of the nursing workforce.

“We’ve currently got 642 Maori staff working here...so that's our cleaners right up to executive level,” she says.

Lack of Māori translators

Meanwhile, Papuni says a lack of Māori translators is another issue.

“That’s our as of right. That’s the second language in New Zealand but you can get a Chinese interpreter at the drop of a hat. I’ve been in a clinic, I’ve seen five translators come in for the Chinese and yet when I ask for one they get upset.”

Nepia says the hospital doesn’t have any staff employed as te reo Māori translators.

“We have many te reo speaking staff but we don’t have any who are trained as qualified translators.  We have a few who are going through the training at the moment.”

To teach staff about tikanga Māori practices, nurses are required to go through a programme called 'Engaging Effectively With Māori'.

“In that programme, there are a lot of tools that are taught around how to engage with Māori effectively including tikanga practices.”

New te reo Māori strategy

Today the hospital has launched a new te reo Māori strategy, led by Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, to help their staff learn te reo.

“It’s an 18 month programme and that’s for all of Counties staff and that’s a weekly class that our staff can attend,” Nepia says.

 Papuni says, like many other Māori patients, she wants to get better for her families sake.

“It’s one thing when you know you might die.  I had already decided I wasn’t going to have the chemo but then all my mokos said 'no Nan, we want you to live' and they said 'we’ll pray for you' and so they did and so I thought I had a reason to live.”'

She says she is progressing through her treatment.

“The doctor showed my chart the other day and said that I’ve gone from having to go every three days a month to just one day a month and so that’s really good.”