Published Tuesday 19 Jan 2021

A staff-led equity group is making change on the ground in Wellington Regional Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED), resulting in a more culturally safe environment for Māori patients.

Members of the ED Māori Advisory and Equity Group. L-R Jodie Pilkinton-Ching, Gabrielle Lummis, Jay Amaranathan, Greg Moke, Cat Tauri, Melanie Taankink. 

Equity is about looking at how well different population groups are doing compared with each other, identifying where the differences are, and working to close the gaps. Health statistics show that inequity between Māori and non-Māori is persistent, and improving this is a key focus for Capital & Coast District Health Board (CCDHB). Launched last year, Taurite Ora, our Māori Health Strategy, challenged our organisation to rebuild itself as a pro-equity organisation from the ground up.

This challenge is being met in part by staff-led initiatives such as the Māori Advisory and Equity Group. “The main idea is to increase equity of both outcomes for patients and experience for staff,” says registrar Greg Moke, while nurse Gabrielle Lummis adds “It’s established a voice for Māori in the organisation to share their experience, and be witnesses to change for people coming through our doors.”

Equity initiatives are set up by three interconnected groups with different roles. “The Māori Advisory Group sets the priorities, and the Equity working group then does much of the work in rolling out initiatives,” says ED consultant Jay Amaranathan, who played a pivotal role in establishing the group. Final service-level sign-out is then provided by a steering group.

Since it was formed in February 2020, the group has brought in several Tikanga and quality initiatives including pioneering the use of pillows with blue slips for heads only, in keeping with heads being tapu (subject to spiritual restrictions). ​The idea is that Māori customs are respected, leading to a better experience for all patients.

Working with CCDHB’s Māori Health Development Group, the group also launched the department's new Māori name, Te Pae Tiaki, this year. "Language is important," said registrar Cat Tauri, speaking at the launch. “This signage hopes to demonstrate that Te Reo Māori is important - and that Māori are welcome here.”

The group also developed Te Reo Māori translations for the department’s now-bilingual signage. “There was a very thorough, collaborative process around choosing translations,” says clinical nurse specialist Jodie Pilkinton-Ching, who is part of the Equity Group along with Jay. “There is a lot of depth and intention, and they’re meaningful to this service.”

There are around six people including Greg and Gabrielle in the Māori Advisory Group, and around 20 in the equity group, with some staff in both. This approach is key to making sustainable change. “Often Māori are getting burnt out because they’re not only having to advocate for change, but also having to do all the work,” explains registrar Cat, who chairs the Advisory Group.

The structure also means Māori staff have “a safe space to discuss the issues facing Māori in a very frank way,” say Cat. “That’s important, because often institutions aren’t safe spaces for us to voice our opinions.”

The group was recognised for their work at CCDHB’s annual awards ceremony on 5 November, winning the Hāpaitia Ō Tātou Uaratanga / Living our Values award. They are now looking forward to working with other departments rolling out similar initiatives across the organisation. “We’d like to collaborate and share each other’s work,” says Jay.