23 May 2016

Call for more Maori in hospice care

3:30 pm on 23 May 2016

Hospice New Zealand is calling for an increase in the number of Māori working in palliative care, saying there is a great deal of room for improvement with very few working in the field.

The organisation represents 35 hospices tasked with looking after the needs of people who are dying and their families and friends. Their services are for anyone with a life limiting condition such as heart failure, motor neurone disease or cancer.

Ria Earp, chair of Hospice New Zealand's Māori advisory group Te Roopu Whaka Māori, said the organisation was keen to see a rise in the number of Māori medical staff.

She said hospices around the country are trying to address this issue.

"Firstly how they relate to local Māori communities, how they include as part of the standards for Hospice NZ, the way in which that particular hospice works and operates for Māori patients and whānau, working with communities and working with Māori health providers."

She said as well as liaison positions, hospices were looking at how to gain more Māori medical, clinical and nursing staff.

There were no Māori medical palliative care specialists in the country at all, she said, and few doctors had studied the area.

Hospice New Zealand's Māori advisory group chair Ria Earp.

Hospice New Zealand's Māori advisory group chair Ria Earp. Photo: Supplied

"We do have some Māori doctors who have perhaps gained a specialist interest in palliative care, but it is a very small group."

Ms Earp said as with Māori nursing positions, that was an area of potential growth.

Māori health workers tended to be more attracted to maternity, tamariki ora or preventative areas of health.

Showing how hospice care could make a real difference for patients and whānau was the start of making the sector more attractive to Māori health workers, she said.

"One Māori health provider pointed out that while traditionally, in keeping with Māori tikanga, those suffering from cancer would be supported and taken care of by whānau, that was not always the case now.

"Many urban Māori, for example, particularly kaumatua and kuia, can be isolated and require hospice care."

She said one of the strong myths about hospice care was that the care of the dying takes place inside a building, whereas most hospice care actually occurs in the community or home.

"When someone is being cared for at home we also look at the range of community services that can be wrapped around that care and increased.

"It's why our work with our health partners, including Māori health providers, organisations and communities, is so important for appropriate care of Māori patients and their whānau."