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Seasoned with Sage
Racist Healthcare Systems

The New Zealand health system isn't immune, and I bet the States isn't either, or the Australian. You see, we've all got something in common. We've either got an indigenous people, or at the very least a group of people who migrated to our respective countries before us white people did. This means you probably have a racist healthcare system. At least that's what the maori tribes in NZ are claiming. In fact some Maori elders claim there should be a separate health system because the current one is so racist.

Can someone please explain what a racist health system is?

I've looked after nearly every nationality in the world, and I treat people all the same, even the assholes and other less deserving (whether or not you think there are people less deserving is another argument we can save for another time.) I've treated white skinned people, brown, yellow, black and even a blue person once.

I've treated the very old to the newborn and everything in between. I've looked after the foulest criminals to priests, monks, and judges. I give them all great care. But when the maori tribes call the health system I work in racist, you're in effect calling me racist, and I'm a bit unhappy about this.

The NZ health service is free, meaning it's funded by the government and everyone has equal access. That sounds pretty fair to me.

Sometimes a Maori patient will get angry because we won't allow a dozen of more relativies in to visit, or we sometimes limit their visiting hours. In Maori culture family is an important part of healing, so when we ask all the relatives to leave, they say it's racist. I think it's racist, or at least very narrow minded for the Maori family to think that they are the only people who considers family an important part of healing.

I sometimes say it's not fair on the other three patients in the room who need to rest. The Maori family will say 'Give us a single room then'. In my hospital, single rooms are reserved for the seriously ill, and you should be thankful your not in a single room. They then complain and call me racist. I say we have limited resources and we do the best we can. I try to be as tolerant as I can of your special needs, but the other patients have special needs as well, and sometimes these cannot be accomadated. A bit of tolerance goes a long way when you're a patient or family member.

I don't want to generalise, and in fact most patients I care for, no matter what background, are very happy and grateful for the care they recieve. The problem seems to be with the upper hierachy, that is the tribal leaders. Of course it's the tribal leaders that are on television and the local news. I hope it's just these leaders getting worked up and not the general Maori population.

Bryn Hagan,

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4 Responses to “Racist Healthcare Systems”

  1. New RN in NY Says:

    Are you kidding me?? Why don’t you re-read what you just wrote here and tell me if you aren’t perpetuating this “racist” healthcare system. Just the phrase, “us white people” alone exemplifies why the Maori population deems the NZ system to be racist.

    Have you ever thought maybe you could learn more about the Maori culture? Have you ever tried to understand the role that family plays in healing for the Maori? While you think it’s narrow-minded that the Maori families think they are the only people who consider family an important part of healing, I think it is you who is the narrow-minded one. Maybe the NZ system needs to start teaching its nurses a little something about culturally competent care. Only then, will the Maori tribes be less inclined to call the entire system, you included, racist.

  2. nursingaround Says:

    To New RN NY, you’re demonstrating your absolute lack of knowledge regarding NZ. The use of ‘us white people’ was deliberately used as the maori people call us Pakeha. There is wide debate about the meaning of this term, although it is generally know to be unpleasant. At the nicest, it simply means white, but it is rumored to also mean white pig.

    You fell for the most obvious, deliberate use of the word ‘white’. This got your back up and you subsequently showed your complete ignorance of NZ nursing.

    As part of my training we actually spent a weekend on a Marae, (you probably don’t know what this is, so look it up). I was told by the Kamatua (tribal elder/leader) that we white people were his opressors. I couldn’t question him or disagree with him without being called racist. A large part of our training is spent on maori culture.

    To me this time could have been better spent learning how to deal with all cultures in general, especially as the world is a rapidly shrinking place.

    Unlike what you’ve done to your local american indains (holed them up on reservations and addicted them to alcohol and gambling), you should take a look at what NZ has done for one of it’s native people, it’s far more than any other nation in the world.

  3. SC Says:

    Nursingaround. I believe that the Maori are speaking of institutional racism. Institutional racism is a form of racism which is structured into political and social institutions. Institutional racism is more subtle, less visible, and less identifiable than individual acts of racism, but no less destructive to human life and human dignity. The people who are part of these institutions may not be racists as individuals, as you stated, but they may well discriminate as part of simply carrying out their job, often without being aware that their role in an institution is contributing to a discriminatory outcome. Examples from U.S. history can help clarify the nature and effects of institutional racism.

    1. In 1935, the U.S. Congress passed the Social Security Act, guaranteeing an income for millions of workers after retirement. However, the Act specifically excluded domestic and agricultural workers, many of whom were Mexican-American, African-American, and Asian-American. These workers were therefore not guaranteed an income after retirement, and had less opportunity to save, accumulate, and pass wealth on to future generations.
    2. The U.S. property appraisal system created in the 1930s tied property value and eligibility for government loans to race. Thus, all-White neighborhoods received the government’s highest property value ratings, and White people were eligible for government loans. Between 1934 and 1962, less than 2% of government-subsidized housing went to non-White people.

    I don’t know about New Zealand, but in America, this type of racism has also lead to health disparities between minorities and the majority population. Minorities are sicker than White Americans; they have more illness and are dying at a significantly higher rate. Because of institutional racism, minorities have less education and fewer educational opportunities. Minorities are disproportionately homeless and have significantly poorer housing options. Racial residential segregation contributes to the concentration of poverty in minority communities. Communities with a high proportion of minorities are more likely than predominantly white communities to be exposed to environmental toxins, including lead and asbestos. Minorities disproportionately work in jobs with higher physical and psycho-social health risks (i.e., migrant farm workers, fast food workers, garment industry workers). Minority communities are frequently the targets of institutions promoting unhealthy products, such as alcohol and tobacco. Thus, the current health status disparity of minorities is the cumulative result of both past and current racism in the US. You may see parallels with the Maori and whites in New Zealand. Do the Maori have disparate health outcomes in New Zealand?- what is their infant mortality rate compared to white NZ; do Maori have the same access to quality healthcare as white NZ; do Maori suffer the burden of inadequate healthcare compared to the majority population ie obesity, diabetes, renal disease etc…diseases that tend to shorten life and are usually easy to prevent. Although institutional racism may not necessarily be caused by intentional racism, it does however have very serious consequences for people being discriminated against.

  4. nursingaround Says:

    Some interesting thigns SC. NZ has a public health system, which means free access to healthcare for all. The only thing you pay for is dental and your family doctor, although this is subsidised for children. Unfortunately even these things have become unaffordable for many NZ’s, of all backgrounds.

    Alcohol and tobacco do cause more problems among the maori population, although I wouldn’t cause this an institutional problem, more one of a free market economy.

    An example of the problem with easy access to tobacco and alcohol is highlighted when Somoan families or family member move from Somoa, when alcohol is pretty much inaccessible, to NZ. Serious alcohol abuse soon becomes a problem. I know about this mainly because I was one of the few non-somoans and maori at my school during my pre highschool years and my family had a lot to do with the other families.

    But back to issue. I still can’t see how a health system can be called racist when everyone has equal access to free care, when the nursing and medical staff treat people the same, ie We recognize people have different values and customs, and we try to take that into consideration, although this can’t always be accomadated.

    All I see being achieved by calling the system racist is getting people’s backs up, making people more angry (on both sides) making people more intolerant, and in the long run creating further divides.

    Wouldn’t it be better to do this… For example, identify that maori have higher smoking rates than others. Then perhaps have maori nurses to go into communities and help educate about smoking and help people stop. Perhaps a govermenet funded advertising campaign as well. Perhaps a programme which focuses on educating maori leaders/elders and using them to help with the use.

    Oh, I forgot, we already do this. We’re doing a lot. It may not be perfect, but we do care and we are trying.

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