Southern Cross Healthcare advances Te Ao Māori integration

2024 plans outlined

Southern Cross Healthcare advances Te Ao Māori integration

Life & Health

By Roxanne Libatique

Southern Cross Healthcare is intensifying its efforts to incorporate Te Ao Māori principles, led by Dean Cowles, national nursing advisor for Māori affairs.

Cowles, associated with Ngāti Awa, has merged his clinical expertise with a deep-rooted commitment to enhancing the understanding and connection of Southern Cross staff to Te Ao Māori. The initiative is also directed at improving the healthcare outcomes for Māori patients and their families.

Integration of Te Ao Māori into Southern Cross Healthcare operations

The healthcare provider is dedicated to integrating Te Ao Māori throughout its operations, an effort that Cowles is confident will not only elevate healthcare outcomes for Māori but also solidify the foundation of the Māori workforce within the organisation.

“Our aim is to embed Te Ao Māori in all that we do at Southern Cross Healthcare. Our Te Ao Māori journey will strengthen our ability to improve Māori health outcomes and future-proof our Māori workforce,” Cowles said.

Dean Cowles's work at Southern Cross Healthcare

Initially joining Southern Cross Healthcare in 2021 as a theatre educator, Cowles transitioned into his current advisory role last year.

A notable step by Cowles includes initiating the Kaimahi role, tasked with providing culturally attuned care and support to Māori patients and their whānau entering Southern Cross facilities. Presently, this role has been instituted in five of the organisation's hospitals.

Additionally, Cowles has spearheaded the creation of a Māori Navigation framework aimed at ensuring comprehensive and holistic care for Māori. With the program currently in its trial phase, Māori nurse practitioner Irene Walden has been brought on board to leverage her extensive clinical and cultural knowledge to drive this initiative.

Southern Cross Healthcare's plans for 2024

This year, Southern Cross Healthcare is placing a strong emphasis on enhancing cultural competency among its workforce. This involves setting up Hospital Hauora Māori Committees at local levels, rolling out Kaimahi roles across all locations, and conducting clinical tikanga workshops.

Cowles highlighted his role as instrumental in bridging cultural knowledge with clinical practice to optimise Māori health outcomes.

“My role serves as a bridge between cultural understanding and clinical expertise across the entire surgical spectrum, providing guidance and mentorship, leveraging deep-rooted cultural insights to advise on Tikanga processes and ultimately elevate Māori health outcomes,” he said. “What we are looking to do is have hauora Māori support processes established in each Southern Cross hospital to provide a complete wrap-around service for our staff and patients. We have already made some great progress in our Te Ao Māori journey and there is so much more to come.”

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