Health NZ worker claims manager banned them from using 'Kia ora' and 'Ngā mihi' after being screamed at by two patients

A Health NZ worker claims their manager banned them from using te reo Māori greetings after being screamed at by two patients for saying "Kia ora" and "Ngā mihi". 

The Health NZ – Te Whatu Ora – worker posted on social media site Reddit claiming they use te reo Māori greetings and sign-offs when sending appointment letters over email. 

The worker said two "non-Māori patients" have called to "scream and yell" that they were offended due to the use of "Kia ora" and "Ngā mihi". 

This prompted the worker's manager to ask them to stop using te reo Māori greetings altogether. 

"I am staunchly against this, as we try to connect with Māori in any way possible to get them to come to appointments, as their health outcomes are historically much worse than Pākeha," the worker wrote on Reddit. 

The worker added: "My question is: What can I do about this? Can I put in a complaint anywhere? I don't want to get in trouble with my boss or HR, but I also don't want the occasional racist dickhead to further marginalise Te Reo Māori." 

Health NZ's chief people officer Andrew Slater told Newshub this is a case of an "overreaction" by the manager. 

Slater said Health NZ absolutely allows and encourages its workers to use te reo Māori as it's an official and cherished language of New Zealand. 

"The advice referred to in the post does not in any way represent the views of Health New Zealand," Slater said. 

"While we don’t know the particulars of this case, we note the reference to yelling and screaming by a patient. It is possible there may have been an overreaction by one manager trying to protect a staff member from further abuse." 

Slater said Health NZ is "very disappointed" if there was any instruction to discontinue te reo in patient communications. 

"That won’t be happening," Slater said. 

"Our staff can safely raise any concerns of this nature with another senior manager, and I would urge this person to do that." 

Former Health NZ chairperson Rob Campbell said the case shows a lack of cultural leadership from the top brass of the agency. 

He added the manager's approach to two complaints from what he presumed were thousands of emails was disappointing. 

"It’s regrettably common for me to get messages from within Te Whatu Ora about managerial indifference to staff pain or about lack of creative leadership against racism," Campbell told NZ Herald. 

"One of the key reasons for the limited progress in Te Whatu Ora remains ineffective leadership in involving and energising people in cultural change."

The post has received hundreds of comments since it was posted two days ago. 

One person responded saying they worked for Te Whatu Ora and had "a few" managers and team leaders who said they couldn't say "kia ora when greeting people as a small number of people found it offensive". 

"How miserbale (sic) your childhood must be if a simple greeting in a different language offends you," another person responded. 

A third person commented saying, "When I was working at North Shore Hospital I was shocked at how many people found offense in me using Kia Ora".