24 June, 2022
A review of Hawke’s Bay DHB alleges a Māori man died after he was refused Emergency Department care for swearing.
However, the DHB has looked into the allegation and says it has no record of the event ‘as described’. If more information arises, it will be investigated.
The review focused on maternity services in Hawke’s Bay, but also sought opinion from stakeholders and staff on ”the practice of providing culturally safe care”.
The report says several staff gave examples of staff making “judgments about certain whānau as patients”.
“These staff felt that often the staff used their power to refuse care because they could not see past a stressed patient who may be swearing for instance,” the review report says.
An example came from a Māori Health staff member who alleged a Māori man who swore in ED, claiming he couldn’t breathe, was refused care because of his obscene language and later died.
The Māori Health staff member says:
“We had ED nurses that called me … and what they had is a guy that came in, he said, “I can’t f**king breathe. I can’t f**king breathe.”
”And they said, ‘Hey, watch your language’.
“And he said, “Get me some f**king oxygen.”
“And they said, “Look, read that sign we will not serve anyone that swears – respect our space.”
“And he said, “Oh, f**k you.” And he was sitting there, they couldn’t get his
“In the end the … nurse came out and said, ‘We’re not going to serve you, you need to go’.
”They got the security guards, they told him to go.
”He did come back, six hours later – dead. He had a respiratory attack.
“And you know what? Our Māori nurses sat here and watched it, and as much as we tried to intervene, they were told, “You are only junior, get back to your ward, they need you.
“Our people sat there and watched that.’
The report says the health worker called a hui. The outcome of the hui is not noted in the report.
Karyn Bousfield-Black, Chief Nursing Officer, said the methodology of the Hau Te Kura review allowed interviewees a safe environment to express their points of views and experiences from their perspectives.
“Hawke’s Bay DHB has looked into the details of the event and has no record of an event as described. If more information comes to light about the described event, it will be investigated further.”
One staff member told a review interviewer:
“It’s the principle of save the life first – then talk later. But I think because it’s a Māori who doesn’t look too flash – they get judged straight away and the power is used to exert
authority over them.”
Midwife and member of the expert advisory group Beverly Te Huia said there will be mixed emotions regarding the review.
“This review will be difficult for some to read and for others, it will come as no surprise. However, what is most important is that the wahine and whānau who shared their stories feel that they are heard and that we will and must do better.
“The recommendations from this review are specific and achievable.”
The DHB is currently working through the recommendations and developing a work plan to address them in a timely manner.