Korowai Aroha Health Centre – Health at the heart of the community

Korowai Aroha, a Māori Health provider in Rotorua, holds one of the highest health standards for a general practice. In the story below, they discuss the benefits of receiving a Cornerstone Accreditation by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. It’s a great example of a health provider continually working to refine their cultural and clinical competencies, with an emphasis on innovation.

Korowai Aroha Health Centre gained quite a bit of media coverage last year when they were awarded the Cornerstone Accreditation by the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. 

In August 2014, staff from the Māori Health Business Unit caught up with Chief Executive, Hariata Vercoe, and Clinical Quality Manager, Rose Whetu-Boldarin, to see how things are going and what differences they’re seeing as a result. 

‘We were already seen as a place that trains nurses and students, but we had a long term goal of having doctors on site too. Prior to getting the accreditation it was sometimes a challenge to get GPs to come and work here. Since being accredited we’ve had doctors knocking on our doors asking to work here – we haven’t had that before,’ Hariata explains.

Cornerstone is an accreditation programme specifically designed for general practices in New Zealand, it assesses the performance of a practice against established standards and introduces a range of continuous improvement processes for the practice to adopt. (For more information contact the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners on 
(04) 496 5999). 

As Hariata explains, the practice and its staff are not the only ones to benefit from the accreditation process. Korowai Aroha’s enrolled population – the number of patients on their books that they serve – has grown as well. ‘We’re now six months down the track of being accredited. Although you get the certificate that says you’ve been accredited and it lasts for three years, it doesn’t stop there. There’s an obligation to continuously monitor that quality.’

‘That leads us to look at the total patient experience holistically and evaluate how well every aspect of the organisation is lining up to support that. As a result, the whole practice is focused on the patient journey – right from reception when the patient makes the appointment, through to when they turn up for treatment and the care that follows afterwards,’ Hariata adds.

‘People choose to come here,’ Rose adds. ‘It’s about respecting that through the whole process. Nothing happens to them. They chose Korowai Aroha so it’s about how they want to proceed and how we can empower and support them to ensure they gain whatever it is they need from us.’ 

As a kaupapa Māori practice, Korowai Aroha’s approach is built around seven kaupapa that guide how they behave and operate: manaakitanga (welcoming and kindness), rangatiratanga (promoting autonomy and empowerment), whanaungatanga (fostering relationships), kotahitanga (unity and shared decision making), wairuatanga (spiritual wellbeing), ukaipotanga (acknowledging our roots) and kaitiakitanga (stewardship). 

‘It’s about acknowledging that we are a Māori service and although not all of our staff are Māori, these kaupapa guide all of us. We’re always looking at the wider whānau perspective – a person might present with diabetes but there may be a number of lifestyle issues for the family as a whole that are contributing to this. If they know they can bring the whole whānau along then we have a better chance of supporting this – and seeing sustainable change for the next generation too,’ Hariata explains.

‘It’s also nice to have two or three others there for the kōrero,’ adds Rose. ‘If you’ve got three sets of ears listening and they’ve all got the opportunity to ask questions, it leads to better understanding and support for more sustainable health.

‘It’s about that whanaungatanga, that commitment to genuine relationship, and ensuring that carries through to every dealing with patients and their whānau – for Māori and non-Māori alike,’ says Rose.  

Hariata continues, ‘We also don’t purport to be the only provider that can work with whānau – we have a network of other organisations that specialise in other areas and we regularly offer to take patients over there and make introductions for them. It’s about keeping the patient at the centre and that means knowing when they’ll benefit from the expertise of others as well. 

‘We had wonderful assistance from other practices as they were going through the accreditation process. It was a great help and we’d be more than willing to talk to anyone else considering the accreditation as well,’ Hariata adds. 

If you’d like to learn more you can contact the Korowai Aroha team on (07) 348 8454 or through the Korowai Aroha website.

This story was originally published in Issue 18 of Ngā Kōrero.

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