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Post-mortem stress

Maori and Hauora Tairawhiti share concerns about coroner-ordered post-mortems that take the deceased away from grieving families in Gisborne and violate cultural beliefs.

The health board is proposing joint discussions with Coronial Services, police and the local coronial transport provider to try to improve the much-criticised situation.

Na Raihania told fellow board members post-mortem issues needed to be better understood.

“We don’t like our dead to be separated from us. We do not accept that our dead have to go to some other place to be cut up.”

Maori found comfort and honour from being close to the dead at all times.

It was crucial Maori cultural integrity was maintained ‘‘to the uppermost’’.

Hiki Pihema said there needed to be a ‘‘win-win process’’.

Whanau did not know what was going to happen when a deceased family member was taken from them.

What could the Ministry of Justice do “to ensure and acknowledge our cultural beliefs and practices”?

Gisborne pathology services for post-mortems are provided in Rotorua where there are enough qualified pathologists with sufficient experience to carry out the service seven days a week.

Other communities access pathology services in a similar manner.

Hauora Tairawhiti board chairman David Scott said transporting the deceased to Rotorua, following the coroner ordering an inquest, “can cause distressing delays, especially if the death occurs during the weekend”.

“The contract for transportation, including holding bodies in Gisborne, has been let to a national provider who has been working hard to fulfil the requirements of their contract.

“But it was important to remember that the coronial process only took place when the coroner determined it should happen.

“We are not talking about a large number of coroner-ordered post-mortems per annum.”

Hauora Tairawhiti chief executive Jim Green said post-mortems had not been performed in Gisborne for at least 10 years.

“Under the new system introduced by the Ministry of Justice about two years ago, police were no longer going to bring to Gisborne Hospital people who had died in the community and who were referred to the coroner.

“The provision of this service is difficult because, in the most part, the bodies of people who have died in the community are being transported to the hospital most often out of hours, and we do not have the resources to care for that situation or for the families who arrive to be with their loved one,’’ said Mr Green.

“Instead we preferred this was all rolled into one service based at another site, with police management plus Victim Support.

Support for post-mortem submission to be made to Ministry

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to have this transition because the new national-contracted provider has been unable to arrange a venue for the new service.

“So we retain this role at present.

“Hauora Tairawhiti is also working to best manage the care of families post the death of a family member who dies in hospital.

“The preference is to try to keep people in a ward setting until the undertaker comes to collect the deceased, rather than use the mortuary.

“The ward setting is more conducive to supporting families.

“However, when this is not possible we also provide care and hospitality to the bereaved as they wait for the undertaker to arrive,” said Mr Green.

Josh Wharehinga told board members he supported a submission about post-mortem issues be made to the Ministry of Justice.

“We are trying to do right by the community.”

The health board had a key role and could “needle’’ the Ministry of Justice, the Chief Coroner and the Government.

Rehette Stoltz said the board were “advocates on behalf of our community to the Ministry of Justice’’.

“The service providers and the hospital do what they can in the framework that is supplied to them by the Ministry.

“We need to keep the community informed with what is happening.

“We are trying to influence the Ministry on their behalf.”

Geoff Milner said a series of frequently asked questions (FAQ) being prepared for bereaved families was a matter of progress.

The public did not understand a process which did not meet community needs.

Mr Scott said that with the FAQ, “we hope families will be more acquainted with the process for when a cause of death is not known and a post-mortem is ordered by the coroner”.

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