Health services, including specialist palliative care services (such as hospice), have a critical role to play in supporting Māori health equity and to ensure Māori whānau enjoy the same levels of wellness and end of life care as non-Māori. Everyone who has contact with Māori whānau has a role to play, including pharmacists, managers, administrators in hospitals, residential care facilities and hospices, health care assistants, radiographers, GPs, specialists, nurses, and volunteer workers.

Although the patient Kui (Health Care Assistant) reflected on was not a kaumātua, her story provides a good example of how health and social care professionals can provide support to a whānau when they have extenuating circumstances. In her story she shared that two young children were left at hospice with their dying mother before she passed. Kui spoke about how she and the other staff at hospice did what they could to support the children while trying to find other whānau to care for them:

… We had a family that came in… [with] two little children… the [māuiui] lady was only young, but she had like a [aged under 15] and [aged under 15] children too... We had some family come in. The lady didn’t have a lot of family. We were trying to find out [from] people who stay long enough for us to sort of build a genogram, so where she belonged… Anyway, she passed, but during her illness, her sickness and her stay with us, I noticed the cooks, the nurses would be taking these kiddies up and getting them food to eat because there was hardly anyone around these children. And… I’m thinking, ‘Where’s the family?’ This is me [gesturing]. Anyway, a man would pop in, a lady would pop in, a couple and then they’d be gone. And these kids are still sitting there you know… But she was only [below kaumātua age] and she got very sick and no one knew how to contact family. So, if I went down, I said, ‘Can you please tell [me] - we need someone to contact, you know… They [children] didn’t have an adult… the children need clothes and they need to have showers. They didn’t have an adult [with them].’ Someone brought them, but then they just left. So, we got in touch with our Social Worker at work and, you know, slowly they got a phone number and they got people to come in and take the children. But, during this illness the workers are bringing in clothes, clothes for these kids. Feeding them… so anyway, it blew me away because everybody, and I mean everyone, looked after those kids and that was the first time I thought, ‘Oh my gosh.’

Reflecting on the value of Māori health professionals, Anita’s story ‘Hoki Whakamuri’ provides an example of her role as a hospice kaiwhakawaenga; her story demonstrates how she engages with whānau by listening to them and walking alongside them in her community role.

‘Hoki Whakamuri’ by Anita, kaiwhakawaenga, Cranford Hospice, Hastings

Click here to read transcript if preferred

Vanessa’s (health professional) story ‘It takes a village’ shows how helpful health professionals and services can be in supporting whānau who may not have much support at the end of life. Going the extra mile can mean supporting whānau by helping them to plan and carry out funeral arrangements.

‘It takes a village’ by Vanessa, Manager Day Stay Clinic, Mary Potter Hospice, Wellington

Click here to read transcript if preferred


For health and palliative care services and professionals, we recommend:

  • Being actively accountable to ensure Māori whānau obtain the right information, at the right time, in the right way for them, and they are able to access the resources and support as they need it.

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