Wednesday 5 April 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion
On the said day, my daughter (aged two) was involved in an accident in town, so we were quickly transported to Tupapa Outpatients for treatment.
Upon arrival, we were put straight into Room 5 (the old Emergency Room). My husband had our daughter, and I followed in behind them - as soon as I walked through the doors I was met by a local nurse who was yelling and screaming at me to get out.
She was forcefully pointing at me and demanding I leave until I looked her dead straight in the eye and told her I was not leaving - that was my baby!
Things settled, and my baby was tended to by the (Filipino? So sorry if I'm wrong.) nurses who were amazing and patient while doing their overall examinations - they even called themselves "Aunties" to help settle down my baby, who at this point, was extremely unsettled.
Now, as I was sitting and waiting for further instructions, the local nurses who were sitting behind the curtains and desks started to freely have a conversation in Cook Islands Maori about how my husband and I were bad parents, and that we can't look after our child properly, and this is why she was hurt, the whole time I was there they thought I was a papa'a/tourist.
Little did they know, I am educated and capable of understanding and being immersed in conversation in Rarotongan, Mangaian, and Atiuan.
I was in utter shock and disbelief that they thought they could sit there and trash talk about people while patients and their families are literally sitting there praying for healing, and full of anxiety and shock.
Not only did they speak about me in Maori, they also started calling the Ugandan doctor (who was great, and listened to every one of my concerns during his examination of my baby) names in Maori and swearing in Maori, to which their reasoning was "he thinks because he came from Uganda he can come here and run us down because we are women".
Wow. The local Cook Island nurses went pale in their faces when I held a full, loud conversation in Maori with my husband when he returned to the room.
We waited a long time for the ambulance to turn up for our transportation to the main hospital for further tests on my baby, but the rest of our experience with the Te Marae Ora staff at Rarotonga Hospital was great.
It wasn't until later on in the day I was informed that staff members at Tupapa Outpatients were actually messaging other people in our extended family (who had no idea of what happened) telling them about my daughter's accident.
Serious breach of privacy and confidentiality.
This made me very frustrated, as no staff member has the right to spread our business outside the hospital/outpatient compound, even if it is to extended family members. That is our job, and our job alone.
I did raise a formal complaint to Te Marae Ora, who then informed me it takes up to seven days to investigate complaints - I have not heard back since.
So my message to the staff of Te Marae Ora is please be better, read situations better, and please don't hold gossip sessions in the triage/waiting room or scream and yell about your dissatisfaction of other staff members in front of patients.
Please, also be mindful that even though people may look papa'a, they very well may speak and understand Maori just as well as you.
P.S. This message is not targeted at the organisation as a whole, but to those who were directly involved with our case - a big warm thank you to staff members who made us feel comfortable and assisted in all our queries and the care of our baby.
Mr Bob Williams, Secretary of Health response: I welcome any complaints but I cannot comment until we are able to verify and substantiate the allegation. To my knowledge, this complaint has not yet come to my office and I will ensure that these matters are investigated. I have an open door policy for matters such as these and I welcome anyone to freely raise any issues or concerns directly to me should they wish to, as I want to get matters dealt with expeditiously. I will be appointing someone to investigate this complaint.