The Whanganui District Health Board is looking at ways to increase its Maori staff numbers.

At the board meeting on February 3, board members and management discussed how they could increase the number of Maori staff which currently sits at 11.2 per cent of the 1093 staff employed by the DHB.

A board member expressed concern that this proportion did not reflect the 26.5 per cent Maori population within the Whanganui region.

Director of Maori Health Rowena Kui said there had been some increase in the numbers of Maori staff but this increase had recently stagnated.

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"While we have increased the number over the past five years, the increase has been slower over the past two years," she said.

She said the DHB had introduced a number of initiatives such as the Hapai te Hoe training programme aimed at supporting staff to understand and acknowledge Maori values and beliefs and to enable DHB services to be more responsive to the needs of Maori whanau.

This training also included informing staff about their Treaty of Waitangi obligations.

This is part of the Maori Health Strategy He Korowai Oranga and the Whanganui DHB's 2013 adoption of the Whanau Ora or family-centred model of care.

Mrs Kui said while some of those initiatives had increased staff capability they were no longer significantly improving Maori staff numbers.

She suggested the board look at other DHBs to determine ways they could increase staff numbers and upskill existing Maori staff.

This could include setting targets for numbers of Maori staff.
She said the WDHB was attempting to tap into the increasing number of Maori entering nursing training in partnership with Whanganui UCOL, employing seven of the last eight Maori graduates to apply.

"We want Maori nurses to feel this is a place they want to come and work for," she said.

Staff at Whanganui UCOL confirmed an increasing number of Maori students were enrolling in the Bachelor of Nursing and Enrolled Nursing programmes.

As of December 31, 71 per cent of all WDHB staff were reported as of European ethnicity.