Cultural clash fears

22:19, Aug 01 2012
CULTURAL CARE: Waitemata District Health Board Asian Health service manager Sue Lim is determined to increase support for people from all cultural backgrounds.

More must be done for hospital patients of all cultural and religious backgrounds, Waitemata District Health Board Asian Health Services manager Sue Lim says.

Language barriers and cultural clashes can lead to misunderstandings between patients and hospital staff, and in some cases deter them from seeking health care at all, Ms Lim says.

"People don't realise it but in a hospital there are a lot of things that certain cultures might object to, removing clothes, touching, removing jewellery or head gear of religious or spiritual meaning.

"These things must be done to provide the necessary care but they can be quite upsetting if not explained," Ms Lim says.

Even in an emergency just a minute spared to explain the process to a patient or family member can prevent unnecessary distress, she says.

Communication is the key to breaking down those barriers, she says.


A course will be under way in October to educate hospital staff on caring for a population growing in ethnic diversity.

"We had a case recently where we had to remove a patient's clothing in order to operate. We have people saying they've lost their dignity because nobody explained that to them; that's our responsibility," Ms Lim says.

Religions such as Sikhism, Buddhism and Islam are gathering a following on the North Shore and hospital staff need to ensure they are taking religious diversity seriously, Ms Lim says.

"When you look at different religions you have to factor in different foods like vegetarian, halal and kosher and having spaces like prayer rooms," Ms Lim says.

The board has run the Asian Health Services Centre offering interpreters, cultural and emotional support, and improved access to health care for the Asian population since 2000.

Mandarin, Korean and Cantonese are the three most widely spoken languages after English on the North Shore and are the most in demand from interpreters.

North Shore Times