The Hui was organised by Northland DHB and Hauora Hokianga, with support from Cancer Society Northern Region, North Haven Hospice and Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand to engage with the community around cancer care and what a patient's journey currently looks like in Northland.
Northland DHB’s Queenie Mahanga and Alex Richards said they really enjoyed working with Hauora Hokianga, whose Health Promotions team created a welcoming atmosphere and a spectacularly decorated venue. They also commented on their pleasure at working alongside Lynn Foster (former clinical manager) and her enthusiastic professional team.
"It helped create a real sense of connection, with people talking freely throughout the day and lots of interaction. It shows the power of good working relationships. The communication with the team in Hokianga was clear, direct, helpful and enthusiastic – it was like a breath of fresh air, and it felt like we were all there for the patients," said Alex.
Speakers included two oncologists, a haematologist, psychologist, nurse educator, Rongoā Māori practitioners and two patients who talked about their personal experience with cancer in an interactive forum where attendees' questions were encouraged.
For those uncomfortable about questioning the speakers, jars with paper and pencils were placed on each table so audience members could write down their queries.
Unfortunately, the panel ran out of time to answer the bulk of the questions. It was of concern to the team, so to remedy this, the panel took the time to respond to the questions, and they will post these on the Hauora Hokianga webpage and Facebook page.
Attendees rated the event positively and fed back that they appreciated the opportunity to get more understanding about the impact of cancer on whānau and the sensitive way the health professionals answered some tough questions.
Acknowledgement for the place rongoā has in cancer care also featured highly in the feedback, particularly requests that oncologists understand the need for patients to feel comfortable, during consultations, to discuss using it as part of the treatment.
"The audience wanted practitioners to be sure we were clear that rongoā is not just about taking Māori medication. It's about other forms of healing – healthy living, mirimiri (massage) spirituality and even treating in a setting that is health-giving," said Queenie.
Queenie added having hui like this in our communities is the way forward to making a real difference to Māori health and working towards reducing inequities and minimising barriers to accessing healthcare.
"Getting out there to hear what people are saying helps to know what some of those barriers are."
One audience member explained that an oncologist might book an appointment for a patient to have treatment in Auckland, without realising for someone from the Mid and Far North to get to that appointment it can turn into a four-day journey, which was a valuable lesson for the team to hear.
One of the two oncologists’, Dr Larking held a clinic in Rawene the day before the Hui which Queenie said meant a lot to the community.
"They were all so appreciative that he made an effort to come up and see them. This contact has gone a long way to making people feel easier about having to come to Whangarei to see a specialist."
The Northland DHB oncology team would like to return to Rawene to discuss the feedback and respond to some of the questions raised in person. They also plan to hold similar Hui around the region, for other communities to be informed and ask questions in a safe and open environment.
Image: Northland DHB Oncologist Dr Vince Newton speaking at the Let's Talk Cancer Hui